Vietnam lawmakers wary of overseas investment risks

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Overseas investment, especially those by state-owned firms, can pose huge risks for the country and tighter control is necessary, lawmakers said this week.

"Investment in foreign countries is highly risky and control over it needs to be tightened," Deputy Vu Quang Hai from the northern province of Hung Yen was quoted by Vietnam Investment Review as saying.

He was speaking at a National Assembly meeting where legislators discussed a draft resolution regarding key investment projects.

Representative Nguyen Dinh Xuan from the southern province of Tay Ninh said the National Assembly should be cautious with overseas investment because if the government invests abroad, the liability will be unlimited.

As Vietnamese companies, most of them state-owned enterprises, are doing business in 51 countries and territories, it is necessary to tighten control over overseas investment activities, he said. "Other countries can freeze the Vietnamese government's assets, not just assets of local companies investing abroad."

Xuan suggested large investment projects with capital of VND35 trillion (US$1.8 billion) or more that have a minimum of 10 percent capital from the government budget have to be submitted to the National Assembly for consideration.

But Tran Dinh Long, deputy chairman of the Law Committee, said this is not a job for the National Assembly. "If the government invests abroad via companies, the companies are responsible for managing and using the capital in accordance with the Investment Law," he said.

Tran Du Lich from Ho Chi Minh City also said supervising overseas projects was beyond the authority of the National Assembly.

Besides, foreign direct investment and portfolio investment need to be treated differently because portfolio investors will lose their opportunities if they have to wait for the National Assembly to discuss issues, Lich said.

Vietnamese companies invested in 465 overseas projects with a combined capital of around $7.73 billion as of the end of last year, according to the Ministry of Planning and Investment.

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