Economists urge Vietnam to relinquish 2019 Asian Games

Thanh Nien News

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The Vietnamese delegation at the Olympic Council of Asia general assembly in Macau in November 2012 when the country won the bid to host the 2019 Asian Games.
Vietnam should relinquish the 2019 Asian Games (Asiad), economists said, citing poorly made plans and its inability to make use of the economic opportunities it would throw up.
Le Dang Doanh, former chief of the Central Institute for Economic Management, told Thoi bao Kinh te Sai Gon (Saigon Times) Online newspaper that Vietnam bid for the Games based on poor planning.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism's plans were not carefully reviewed or debated, especially from the economic angle, he said.
The estimated cost of hosting the event is still unclear.
Hoang Vinh Giang, deputy chairman of the Vietnam Olympic Committee, told online newspaper Dan Tri earlier this week that the ministry had calculated the cost of the event at over VND4.16 trillion (US$196.5 million), and the government will cover over 76 percent of it, or $150 million.
After winning the bid, the ministry sent another proposal to the Ministry of Finance, saying the total cost would be around $255 million, 96 percent of which will come from the exchequer, online newspaper VTC News reported.
Faced with the finance ministry’s objection, the ministry later adjusted the cost down to $150 million and claimed that 72 percent of it would come from non-government sources, the report said.
However, in its latest reports to the government and the National Assembly, the ministry said it would cost the government $150 million, but that would be just 28 percent of the total cost.
In other words, the total cost could be over $535 million, of which 72 percent would come from non-government sources.
Doanh told Thoi bao Kinh te Sai Gon Online that the ministry failed to explain what these sources would be and how they would be persuaded to bring in the money.
He said he did not support Vietnam’s hosting of the 2019 Asiad because the country is not well prepared for it.
“It will be shameful to back out, but it is better than not withdrawing.”
Pham Chi Lan, another economist, also said that Vietnam should relinquish the right to host the Games since the cost would likely increase in future and the economy is still mired in difficulty.
Nguyen Duc Thanh, director of the Vietnam Centre for Economic and Policy Research at the Vietnam National University in Hanoi, agreed.
Vietnam is unlikely to make good use of the opportunities brought by the hosting of the Asia, he said. 
For the event to become a real boost to the economy, all sectors, especially  private, have to be given an equal chance to take part in the opportunities like building infrastructure, transport services, and tourism, he said.
But it is impossible in Vietnam, where such projects are often awarded to state-owned firms, Thoi bao Kinh Te Sai Gon Online quoted him as saying.
While the event would offer Vietnam the chance to speed up economic restructure, the country is not ready to make use of it, Thanh said.
“Pulling out does not mean Vietnam will lose prestige. We will lose much more prestige by doing things badly.”
Tran Dinh Thien, chief of the Vietnam Institute for Economy, said if the government boldly changes its ways and encourages the private sector’s participation, the Games would help develop the economy.
But he doubted that such large and deep changes could be effected within a few years.
“If we feel that we cannot do it, it is better to give up [the Games] at the earliest,” he said.

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