Long Thanh airport isn't urgent: lawmakers

By Bao Van, TN News

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A digital rendering of the planned Long Thanh Airport in the southern province of Dong Nai, around 40 kilometers to the northeast of Ho Chi Minh City. A digital rendering of the planned Long Thanh Airport in the southern province of Dong Nai, around 40 kilometers to the northeast of Ho Chi Minh City.

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Despite agreeing in principal on a government plan to build a new major airport in southern Vietnam, some delegates at the ongoing session of the National Assembly (NA) expressed concern about the project's timeline and possible effectiveness.
In discussing the Long Thanh airport project, on Friday, Delegate Huynh Nghia reaffirmed the need for the project given the relatively small size of Vietnam’s two largest airports.
However, the timeline for construction, capital sourcing and technical matters related to the project should be carefully considered, he said.
“We have drawn many lessons from the past implementation of other big projects," he said. "Without clear and complete objectives and technical research, their effectiveness won't meet our expectations.”
The airport's construction isn't urgent given the country’s significant public debt, he said. Each of the country's 90-million resident bears a public debt that's equal to some $900 per person.
The project will cost too much, particularly given imperative issues like the development of rural transportation networks and raising public salaries, Nghia said.
The first stage of the project will unfold between 2023 and 2025 at a cost of some VND165 trillion (over $7.8 billion). The state is expected to contribute over VND84.6 trillion toward that cost.
The rest will be raised through government bonds and ODA loans.
Nghia said the construction of Long Thanh Airport in Dong Nai Province should be completed in the next 15-20 years.
Concerned about the economic efficacy of Long Thanh, delegate Nguyen Sy Cuong said foreign visitors visit Vietnam for its social, business and tourism resources, not because they're looking for a big airport.
In a recently completed survey, 80-90 percent of questioned tourists said they don’t want to return Vietnam. For that reason it will be hard for the planed airport to achieve its goal of accommodating a growing population of international arrivals, he said.
Long Thanh Airport is expected to serve 17 million passengers by 2023 and increase its capacity to 25 million passengers in 2025.
Delegate Do Manh Hung said the project’s budget was calculated based on an optimistic forecast about future air arrivals.
Hung also expressed concern about the exorbitant cost of the airport.
The facility is estimated to cost the country $180 per passenger when it finally becomes fully operational. Meanwhile, most major airports only cost their host countries $90 per passenger.
Some delegates have asked the government to hire independent agencies to assess the possibility of expanding Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat Airport.
Many have argued that, Vietnam should expand Tan Son Nhat instead of building Long Thanh because of the exceptional costs involved.
However, the Ministry of Transport has argued that the construction of Long Thanh Airport will satisfy demands that Tan Son Nhat cannot due to rising arrivals.
The ministry has further argued that expanding Tan Son Nhat to accommodate 40-45 million passengers a year will be costly and unfeasible because it is located in a residential area only seven kilometers from the city center, the ministry reported.
A major international airport is necessary to meet domestic and regional demand and Long Thanh offers and ideal location to do so.
The Long Thanh airport is expected to serve up to 100 million passengers a year after 2050, becoming a major Southeast Asian hub.

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