Poor province catches flak over plan to build $64mil memorial complex for Uncle Ho

Thanh Nien News

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Nguyen Quoc Khanh (standing), vice chairman of Son La Province People's Committee, at a news conference on August 5, 2015. Photo: Vietnam News Agency Nguyen Quoc Khanh (standing), vice chairman of Son La Province People's Committee, at a news conference on August 5, 2015. Photo: Vietnam News Agency

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Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung on Wednesday ordered the northwestern province of Son La to report on its controversial plan to build a multimillion-dollar memorial complex for President Ho Chi Minh.
The order was made following public outcry about the large fund required for the project.
PM Dung asked the provincial government to justify the cost before August 15.
Nguyen Quoc Khanh, vice chairman of Son La Province People's Committee, said the central government last August gave the province the green light to build a statue of President Ho Chi Minh to mark Uncle Ho's visit to people of the northwestern region in 1959.
The provincial People's Council has recently approved the project, with an estimated cost of VND1.4 trillion (US$64.17 million), he said.
The project is designed to consist of a statue of President Ho Chi Minh, a provincial administrative center, a museum, a square, and a temple to worship the late president. 
The statue, around 5-8 meters tall will be located at the temple and is estimated to cost around VND200 billion ($9.16 million), Khanh told a news conference in Son La Wednesday.
The project is expected to cover an area of 20 hectares in the heart of Son La City, the capital city of the province.
Son La authorities plans to start work on the project in October on the occasion of the 120th birthday of the province.
Funding for the project will come from the state and provincial budget and from contributions of people and businesses in the province, said provincial Chairman Cam Ngoc Minh.
Priority will be given to building the statue and the square, Minh said, adding the construction was due to finish in 2019 to mark 60th anniversary of Uncle Ho's visit to the northwestern provinces.
Criticism
The planned project is now at the center of controversies. 
Many Facebook users dismiss the project as squandering, given the fact that Son La is among the poorest provinces in the country, with around 71,000 households still living under the poverty line.  
It is estimated that $64.17 million is equivalent to the monthly income of 1 million residents in Son La.
The province has the population of around 1.1 million.
Many people said that the fund used for the project can build hundreds of schools and medical centers for the province.
Son La authorities told the press the project “symbolizes the aspiration and affection of local people for President Ho Chi Minh” and it would boost tourism.
 A statue of President Ho Chi Minh on Nguyen Hue Street in Ho Chi Minh City which was inaugurated in May this year to celebrate his 125th birthday. The 7.2-meter bronze statue costs VND7 billion (US$321,000) to build. Photo: Diep Duc Minh

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism told news website VnExpress the ministry has yet to be informed of the project.

He said the province should thoroughly consider the project given its large cost.
To put the cost into perspective, the new statue of President Ho Chi Minh City in his eponymous city in southern Vietnam reportedly cost VND7 billion ($321,000) to build. 

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