Delusions of grandeur

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  The Hanoi Museum, Vietnam's largest museum built at a cost of VND2.8 trillion (US$133 million). Many areas of the museum, opened in 2010, are still unused and the number of visitors has been less than expected.

Vietnam's critical sectors such as education and health face a myriad of problems.

Government investment should thus be focused on the most practical projects possible, those that visibly benefit people, instead of grand and impractical pipe dreams.

My colleagues in the central province of Nghe An have just told me a heart-rendering story about poor students in Bao Thang Commune.

As they did last year, the area's poor children had to pack bags of rice and clothes to take with them as they traveled across the commune to live in makeshift huts near their school.

They will not go home until they run out of rice.

Because the school is some 15 kilometers from their home and the mountainous road is not an easy trek by foot or bike, many students live in the huts all school year. The huts are made from bamboo and are easily torn apart by winds and rainstorms.

It was once estimated that a proper house for the children would take just VND500 million (US$23,761) to build. But, it seems that no one cares about such a small project in such a distant area, even though it is the only dream of thousands of poor children there.

On another occasion, a friend who is a doctor told me it would take just VND1 trillion ($47.52 million) to build a hospital with 1,000 beds and advanced equipment like the K Tan Trieu Hospital, which opened in Hanoi last month.

He said it was the dream of both doctors and patients to have more hospitals like that.

To take good care of people and improve their quality of life are the objectives of every society. To invest in education and health care, and to make improvements to people's physical health and intelligence are every society's priorities.

However, it is still understandable that sometimes these priorities and objectives are adjusted, because our country is still having financial difficulties.

But, now, people can't help but raise questions about plans to build a national history museum that the Ministry of Construction proposed to the government last week.

The ten-hectare museum would cost VND11.28 trillion ($535.92 million) in public money.

Of course, Vietnam needs big projects to present itself to the world. We also need to respect our history and preserve relics. But is it really necessary to build such a luxurious museum at the moment?

We already have the Hanoi Museum, which opened in 2010 as one of the major works marking Hanoi's 1,000th anniversary. With a total investment of VND2.8 trillion ($133 million), it is known as the country's largest museum, but now much of it is vacant, and the number of visitors since opening has been much less than expected.

Elsewhere across Vietnam many museums are ignored by Vietnamese people. In fact, recent Thanh Nien reports have found that except for researchers, film directors, scriptwriters and students who are obliged by school to visit museums, hardly anyone ever visits local museums twice because of their plain and poor displays.

Will another grand museum help improve the poor museum culture in Vietnam? And, more importantly, will it be able to make Vietnam look better in the eyes of the international community? Wouldn't the effective elimination of makeshift study-huts and overcrowded hospital rooms make Vietnam look much better?

The new museum project's planners should conduct a poll to collect public opinions on whether or not to build the national museum at the moment. As taxpayers, people have the right to raise their voices about it.

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