Weak governance to blame for traffic problems: minister

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A motorist talks on his mobile phone while waiting at a traffic junction in Hanoi. At the National Assembly's meeting on Wednesday, Transport Minister Dinh La Thang said poor law enforcement leads to Vietnam's current traffic problems.

Poor governance has played an important role in the frequent flouting of laws by Vietnamese road users, leading to the current state of traffic problems, transport minister Dinh La Thang said at a National Assembly meeting Wednesday (November 23).

Law enforcers and management agencies have to do their duties "strictly, immediately, and in a determined manner," Thang told deputies on being asked what solution would help resolve the current traffic chaos. 

However, the minister, who has grabbed headlines with tough action on several fronts since he took office three months ago, especially on delayed infrastructure works, said he could not say when traffic congestion could be ended in Ho Chi Minh City.

"I hope legislature members will sympathize with me. I cannot say for certain when traffic accidents and congestion will end," Thang said.

But, the ministry aims to decrease traffic accidents by 5 to 10 percent per year, he said. Asked about corruption in infrastructure projects, Thang said it "happens" and is "inevitable."

The transport ministry has recognized the problem and is acting to deal with it, but so far the results have yet to meet expectations, Thang said.

"The solution is to firmly replace contractors and management consultants, especially project management boards, who fail to meet the demand. We will upgrade management boards to professional companies."

Thang's responses left some of the lawmakers dissatisfied.

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Nguyen Ba Thuyen, a lawmaker from the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong, said "the minister was beating around the bush," because he failed to clarify how proposed solutions to traffic problems would be implemented.

"I'm not satisfied with the minister's responses," Thuyen said.

In fact, during the questioning process, Thuyen said that if Thang kept prevaricating, "anyone could become a minister."

Bui Thi An, a legislature member from Hanoi, also said Thang failed to answer her question about why Vietnam does not estimate the life of an infrastructure work like other countries do, and what the loss of investment capital involved is when a work's quality is poor.

An also said Thang's proposed solutions, like adjusting working and school hours and clearing pavements abused by parking lots and street vendors, are just "ad hoc" measures and not "decisive."

However, in interviews with the press, Thang attributed his lengthy responses to the fact that he was answering questions on the same theme, local news website VnExpress reported.

Therefore, his answers did not satisfy each and every lawmaker; it wasn't that he was beating around the bush, the news site quoted the minister as saying.

Asked about Thuyen's comment on his performance in answering questions, Thang said: "Ministers are approved by the National Assembly based on certain criteria; not anyone can become a minister."

The minister admitted that his proposals for solving traffic problems are not new, but what matters now is to take tough action, VnExpress reported.

The minister said he has asked the National Assembly to supervise traffic problems and pass a resolution guaranteeing traffic order and preventing traffic congestion.

"If the target of decreasing traffic accidents can't be achieved, the transport minister will take responsibility," Thang said.

BOX: NO INCREASE IN FOREST LEASE: AGRICULTURE MINISTER

Vietnam is leasing out 18,571 hectares of forests, which is almost the same as the end of last year, Agriculture Minister Cao Duc Phat told the National Assembly's meeting on Wednesday (November 23).

Phat said they have strictly followed the Prime Minister's order last year to stop leasing forest land, review licensed projects and suspend those involving national defense, local news website VietNamNet reported.

In the meantime, Bui Quang Vinh, Minister of Planning and Investment, said they have withdrawn the licenses of two projects and have not issued any license so far.

Asked about the protection of 3.8 million hectares of paddy fields that the National Assembly has targeted to maintain by 2020, Phat said the area of rice cultivation has reduced to climate change influences.

Vietnam can develop industries in coastal and midland areas (instead of taking over rice fields), and issue policies to support rice farmers, he said.

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