Officials concerned over Hanoi development budget, anti-migrant policy

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National Assembly Standing Committee members said Tuesday that a new Hanoi development plan might not be affordable and could hinder growth with measures to curb migration to the capital.

Head of the Finance and Budget Standing Committee Phung Quoc Hien questioned whether the municipal government would be able to afford the US$90 billion plan through 2050.

The Hanoi city government had been raking in an annual average income of some some VND70 trillion ($3.6 billion) over the last few years, Hien said. But even if the current 15-percent annual income growth rate continues, "would we be able to afford the new plan?" he asked.

He said Vietnam had not been saving any of its annual income in the state coffers as all funds were being spent on health, education and infrastructure.

Hien stressed that major upcoming nuclear projects and a high speed railway would be expensive and use up huge amounts of government funds.

The Economic Standing Committee also said that the government needed to consider that real construction costs would likely end up being be much higher than estimated by the time the projects are finished, as is commonplace in Vietnam.

The committe pointed out in a statement that infrastructure projects in Hanoi tended to spend up to 80 percent of their investment just on compensation paid to local people for site clearance.

For example, the city last month began construction of a 550-meter long road with a total investment of VND642 billion ($33.8 million), 91 percent of which was spent on compensation.

Closed-door policy

Hien also voiced his concerns over a stipulation in the plan that aims to restrict the migration of people of other provinces into the city between this year and 2020.

Vietnam wanted to become an industrial country in 2020, meaning that laborers from the countryside will need to move to urban areas, the official said, stressing that the plan may come into conflict with the objective.

Nguyen Van Thuan, chairman of the Laws Standing Committee, agreed with Hien.

He said that urban planners were under an "illusion" that Hanoi was an island that belonged only to Hanoians.

Spread too thin

Le Quang Binh, chairman of the National Defense and Security committee, meanwhile, didn't agree with measures in the plan that would set up a national administrative center around Ba Vi Mountain, some 60 kilometers from the city's center, while at the same time having many central political and administrative agencies stay in central Hanoi's Ba Dinh District.

All of Vietnam's political infrastructure should be local in the same area, he said.

Agreeing with Binh, Tran Dinh Dan, chairman of the National Assembly's Office, was also concerned about effects possibly caused by the separation on administration and management.

First prepared in December 2008, the master plan was put on display at an 11-day exhibition for public feedbacks last month . A survey among 6,700 visitors showed that most of them agreed with the plan, according to the Ministry of Construction's deputy minister Nguyen Dinh Toan.

The project was expected to be finalized and submitted to the upcoming National Assembly's session scheduled to open on May 20.

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