Vietnam transport minister targets lawbreakers

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As lawmakers prepare to implement a series of new vehicle taxes, Vietnam's outspoken transport minister proposes additional traffic fines

 
Commuters in Hanoi, where police addressed roughly 965,000 traffic violations last year. Photo: AFP

The transport minister has proposed a steep increase in traffic fines, citing violators as the main cause of vehicle congestion and accidents in Vietnam.

During a meeting with the National Assembly's Legislative Committee on Tuesday (April 24), Minister Dinh La Thang proposed raising the maximum traffic fine five-fold to VND200 million (US$9,600), according to a report posted on the government's website.

The proposal came as part of the Ministry of Transport's draft law on fines which will be considered by the National Assembly. Vietnam's legislature, at next month's biannual plenary session.

According to the ministry, sluggish infrastructure development and shortcomings in management have accompanied a 15 percent annual increase in the number of vehicles. Traffic violations, however, were listed as one of the leading causes of Vietnam's traffic problems.

Last year, and over the first two months of this year, Thang said 8.3 million traffic violations were recorded across the country, bringing nearly VND2.4 trillion ($115.4 million) in fines to the National Treasury.

More than 1.9 million violations were reported in Ho Chi Minh City, while Hanoi and the central city of Da Nang handled 965,000 and 102,000 cases respectively.

The most common violations included driving on the wrong part of a road, speeding, illegally parking, not wearing helmets, and drunk driving.

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According to the National Traffic Safety Committee, although traffic accidents in the three biggest cities Hanoi, HCMC and Da Nang have decreased since last year, the number of accidents and casualties remains high.

In its draft law, the ministry also proposed confiscating vehicles from underage drivers and illegal racers.

Meanwhile, the new law will require car owners to produce proof of a bank account before they are authorized to get on the road, the report said. The account would serve as a means for the driver to pay fines.

Still in question

Since taking office last year, Thang has continued to make headlines with his controversial solutions to the nation's traffic problems. During Tuesday's legislative session, the minister was grilled about his recent proposal for collecting personal vehicle fees.

Representative Tran Ngoc Vinh, from the northern port city of Hai Phong, asked Thang to explain the initiative.

"It is not receiving any support," Vinh said.

Vinh urged Thang to come up with a way to recover the losses generated by public works projects that does not include asking people to pay lots of fees, given that most of them are still having financial difficulties.

Nguyen Ba Thuyen from the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong also said the government should seek a solution that collects as little money from people as possible and attracts more investment in infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Phung Van Hung, a member of the National Assembly's Economic Committee, said the ministry's proposal has not only caused a public stir, it could affect the state budget by discouraging prospective car buyers.

Hung stressed that the government is responsible for the nation's poor infrastructure and it is therefore unreasonable to place the burden on the people.

Ha Thi Lien, vice chairwoman of the central committee of the Vietnamese Fatherland Front, an umbrella group of all political and social organizations in in Vietnam, also said the transport ministry needs to reconsider the substantial fees.

In response, Thang said the solutions the ministry has proposed align with resolutions made by the Party, the National Assembly and the government.

"Of course, implementing it [the fee collection] requires a detailed plan and support from the people," Thang said, adding that the government has mandated that the proposal will only be set into action when the people agree to it.

The ministry's proposal, which was submitted to the government last November, would require motorbike owners to pay a tax of between VND500,000-VND1 million ($23.70-$47.50) per year. Car owners would pay between VND20-VND50 million ($951-$2,300).

Under the plan, the personal vehicle fees would be subject to a five percent annual increase as well.

In the meantime, the ministry will begin collecting road maintenance fees starting on June 1. Car owners will pay between VND180,000 and 1.4 million (US$8.6-67) a month. Motorbike owners will pay between VND80,000 and VND150,000 ($3.8-7.2) per year.

According to the ministry, some VND6 trillion ($288.3 trillion) will be collected in road maintenance fees every year.

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