In an interview with Tuoi Tre last week, Nguyen Xuan Thanh, director of the Public Policy Program at the Ho Chi Minh City-based Fulbright School, made a comparison between the investment costs of highway streets in Vietnam and those of other countries.
According to the expert, each kilometer of the Ho Chi Minh City Trung Luong Road, which connects the city and the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang, cost US$9.9 million.
The planned investment for the HCMC Long Thanh Dau Giay highway, which is being built between the city and the southern province of Dong Nai, is $18.3 million per kilometer. This has climbed to $28.2 million per kilometer for the upcoming Ben Luc Long Thanh Highway connecting the provinces of Long An and Dong Nai.
Meanwhile, highways in China cost just $6 million per kilometer, and $8 million in the US.
Thanh said that even though compensation paid to affected people for site clearance and the cost of strengthening weak soil account for most of investment, the cost in Vietnam was still much higher.
For example, without the compensation and strengthening costs, every kilometer of the HCMC Long Thanh Dau Giay highway costs some $13 million, still much higher than in the US and China.
Despite such huge investments, the projects fail to deliver what people expect safe and beautiful streets.
In fact, given that their investment costs are much higher than those of other countries, Vietnam's roads and streets do not match them in terms of quality and looks, and worse still, demand annual maintenance costs that run into billions of dong.
The HCMC Trung Luong Road, for example, was once considered the country's first highway that met international standards with the total investment of nearly VND10 trillion ($481.9 million).
However, since it was put into operation in February 2010, it has made headlines for its poor quality and worsening problems like potholes and sinking. It has been the site of thousands of accidents caused by flat tires as well as collisions between vehicles going in the same direction.
It is totally unacceptable that a fortune is invested in huge projects and we end up having poor quality roads; that we pay taxes and have to face risk and danger.
This is a waste of state budget funds, but that is not all.
Now we have to worry are investors and contractors spending the money properly? Before approving the projects, are related agencies double checking the cost estimates?
People have the right to know how the taxes they pay are being used, and be reassured that they are being used efficiently.
For now, that is not happening.