Vietnam public buildings costing arms and legs: report

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The headquarters of Hau Giang Province's Party Unit / PHOTO COURTESY OF TUOI TRE

In Vietnam, where wasteful public spending has been a major public issue recently, provincial government buildings are still being built for tens of millions of dollars each.

At a meeting in late September, Ksor Phuoc, chairman of the National Assembly's Ethnic Group Council, lamented that in many provinces where a majority of people live in poverty, administration buildings look like "palaces".

Phuoc's statement was backed up by a recent report in Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that said the Mekong Delta Province of Hau Giang's provincial Party Unit's had built itself a 3.3-hectare headquarters that only employes 50 people for nearly VND300 billion (US$14.2 million), or more than 11 percent of the province's budget income in 2008 when construction started.

The building has three floors (excluding a basement). It consists of four meeting halls, the biggest of which has a capacity of more than 300 people.

The headquarters, which was put into use in April, is surrounded by 32 columns and is covered in tiles and glass.

Nguyen Quoc Ca, vice chairman of Hau Giang's People's Council (legislature), told the newspaper that lawmakers did not approve the project's budget at a single meeting, but in stages every year, because construction took so long.

He also said that his province received financial aid from the central government every year to spend on approved projects.

In the central city of Da Nang, VND115 billion ($5.4 million) from the state budget was spent on the Supreme People's Court's headquarters, a six-floor building located on an extremely expensive plot of land at the crossroads of 30-4 and Nui Thanh streets, Tuoi Tre reported.

After two years, work on the six-floor building is still not complete.

About tens of meters away is a six-floor building that is the city's People's Court, which recently cost VND105 billion ($4.9 million).

In the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre, many agencies managed by the central government asked for land to build big headquarters, said Tran Quang Minh, vice director of the province's Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

But, even though the buildings are giant, much of the granted land has gone unused, he said.

For instance, the Ben Tre People's Court was granted 14,300 square meters, but the building ended up taking up just a corner of that, and leaving an area as big as a football field untouched, he said.

Other examples are the offices of Mo Cay Nam District's People's Court and Cho Lach District's judicial agencies, said Minh.

Other newspapers have reported the same problem in other provinces.

The southern province of Ba Ria Vung Tau's administrative and political center was put into operation in April last year with a total investment of over VND1 trillion ($47.3 million), online newspaper Vietnamnet reported.

The complex, built at the province's expenses, covers some two hectares.

In the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong, an administrative center is being biult on 3.5 hectares in the resort town of Da Lat.

With an investment of more than VND1 trillion, the complex was supposed to host all Lam Dong provincial agencies, according to the report.

In response to the reports, Minister of Construction Trinh Dinh Dung told Dau Tu (Investment) online newspaper early this week that the ministry would review the issue.

However, he also said the construction of state agencies' offices is "strictly" managed.

According to Dung, given the trends of industrialization and modernization in Vietnam, new buildings should be bigger and more beautiful than old ones.

State agencies' office buildings need to be high-quality and beautiful, while also creating the best environment for work, he said.

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