Vietnam's government exceeds spending limit again

Thanh Nien News

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Vo Van Kiet Boulevard, an ODA-funded project in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Diep Duc Minh Vo Van Kiet Boulevard, an ODA-funded project in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Diep Duc Minh

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Discussions on weak fiscal discipline began to pop up again after new data revealed that the government in 2014 did not just spend more than it had, but also broke an overspending cap imposed by legislators.  
At a meeting with the Standing Committee of the National Assembly on Wednesday, Finance Minister Dinh Tien Dung reported a state budget deficit of more than VND260.14 trillion (US$11.5 billion) in 2014, or 6.61 percent of the country's gross domestic product, local media said.
That was an increase of 16.1 percent from the maximum deficit level approved by the National Assembly that year. Legislators wanted the deficit to stay below 5.7 percent of GDP. 
Explaining the higher-than-allowed spending, Dung said many infrastructure projects had to be sped up and the government had to borrow more. 
He urged the legislature to approve the spending figures so that the government can wrap up accounting work for the year 2014. 
This practice of breaching expenditure limits is not rare in Vietnam. But this time, many top legislators demanded the government present a detailed report on its spending, otherwise official fiscal figures will not be accepted. 
"Our finances are not transparent with many unaccounted expenses," Phan Trung Ly, chairman of the National Assembly's legal committee, was quoted as saying at the meeting.
"We need to abide by laws; there must be no leniency," he said, calling on the legislature to carefully consider the figures.
In 2013, the state budget deficit amounted to more than VND236.76 trillion, or 6.6 percent of GDP, exceeding the 5.3 percent cap set by the National Assembly.
Under existing rules, the government is allowed to borrow money to make up for its deficit. This year, for instance, it plans to borrow VND254 trillion ($11.23 billion).
Latest figures released by the government last month showed Vietnam's public debt was equivalent to 62.2 percent of GDP.
It will rise to 63.8 percent at the end of this year, and then 64.7 percent in 2018, or slightly lower than the threshold of 65 percent, according to the World Bank's projections.

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