On the sidelines of a National Assembly sitting last week, explaining why it costs Vietnam more to invest in traffic works than many other countries, Transport Minister Dinh La Thang said one of the reasons was that "we love grandeur."
He said many of Vietnam's bridges did not need either a cable-stayed design or great width that would achieve some title like "the world's biggest," or "Southeast Asia's largest."
"As we don't have much money, we should have built them on a moderate scale, but we always want to build cable-stayed bridges with big width."
The ministry's recent review of many projects to build new bridges have helped reduce the total planned investment by VND600 billion (US$28.47 million) by adjusting their design from "cable-stayed" to "no cables," Thang said.
He also said that the budget for a project to build two cable-stayed bridges between the southern provinces of Long An and Ba Ria-Vung Tau has decreased by VND10 trillion ($474.45 million) thanks to adjustments to designs and many other factors.
The minister's statements shows why people are more upset than ever about living in a country where officials think it is necessary to make everything, but people's lives, grand luxurious.
Earlier the government wanted to delay a scheduled increase in minimum wages to May next year, saying that the economy was still facing difficulties balancing the budget. However, with just a couple of adjustments, as Thang has showed, a project's investment could be reduced by up to VND10 trillion, or one sixth of the budget needed for the plan to raise wages.
Several years ago, at a National Assembly session, Nguyen Minh Thuyet, former vice chairman of the National Assembly's Committee on Culture, Education, Youth and Children, described the extravagant tendency as a "mania with grandeur."
He said many people in Vietnam, especially officials, are obsessed with "the longest," "the biggest," and "the largest." People even made giant banh chung (Vietnam's traditional square sticky rice cake) just to get named in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Meanwhile, in many distant and needy areas, people were still crossing a river by gliding on cables, because small bridges built with meager investments were repeatedly damaged by floods, Thuyet said.
When officials expend a huge part of the state budget on lavish projects, luxury cars, ceremonies and festivals, they seem to forget that the general public contributes to the budget.
And, people want to have better social welfare rather than extravagant projects and festivals. They also want to meet responsible and helpful public servants when they visit government offices rather than splendid buildings with cold and bossy staff.
In other words, officials should give extravagant thought to improving people's living standards, instead of feeding their extravagant egos.