Hanoi claims it came in under-budget on anniversary party

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Hanoi spent VND265.928 billion (US$13.64 million) on its millennial anniversary, Hoang Manh Hien, vice chairman of Hanoi's People's Committee, said at a meeting on Wednesday, December 8.

The sum is far below some of the astronomical projections that have surfaced in recent weeks. If the figure is indeed accurate then the city managed to pull the event off well under-budget.

The money was spent on PR, cultural activities, and gifts among other things, according to Hien.

The city appears to have cut impractical and unreasonable addendums from the event budget, he told a meeting of the Hanoi People's Council, the municipal legislature.

According to Hien, the Council had approved VND350 billion ($17.95 million) for the event.

City authorities recently called for a public report on expenditures for the week-long October festival after local media outlets reported rumors that the celebration cost VND4-5 trillion (US$205-257 million).

Last month, one lawmaker filed a note to the Finance Ministry asking officials there to address rumors that the festival organizers had blown VND94trillion ($4.82 billion), or on tenth of the country's gross domestic product.

Municipal authorities roundly denied the allegations.

Still, even after the first official expenditure report, suspicion lingers among some city deputies.

Deputy Vu Duc Tan said the report is incomplete, considering that funding for the event came from more places than just the municipal budget.

Tan added that the report omitted several costly development projects that were supposed to conclude in time for the anniversary - like the 30 kilometer Thang Long Boulevard and Hoa Binh Park.

In the meantime, Nguyen Van Nam, Chief of the People's Council's Budget Committee, said the deputies will have to wait until all the expenditures have been settled on the balance sheet.

During the same meeting, several development-weary deputies criticized a proposal calling for high-rise construction along the city's 40-kilometer riverfront.

Deputy Nguyen Viet Hung said the project, which was estimated to cost $7 billion, would pave  the city center with a high density of buildings.

Hanoi, he fears, could make the same mistake Seoul did when they developed the banks of the Han River. Hung said the plan would prove "a misery" that would sap the city of its "ancient and romantic" beauty.

Councilman and architect Tran Trong Hanh agreed.

Hanh argued that the project has already been criticized by many deputies and would transform the serene waterfront into a cold rampart. Hanh was equally concerned by a proposed adjustment to several sections of the river's dyke which is almost 1,000 years old.

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