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Ministry cuts cost of int'l airport project

Update: February, 27/2015 - 09:14
The first stage of construction on Long Thanh International Airport is set to start next year in the southern province of Dong Nai. — Photo doanhnghiepvn
HA NOI (VNS) — Transport Minister Dinh La Thang yesterday said his ministry expected Long Thanh International Airport to cost around US$15.8 billion, drawn from the State budget and outside sources.

This figure is nearly $3 billion less than previous estimates. Thang presented a report on the feasibility of the project to the National Assembly Standing Committee yesterday to prepare for a presentation during the NA's plenary session meeting in May.

The first stage of construction on Long Thanh International Airport is set to start next year in the southern province of Dong Nai. The plan has caused concern about whether it is necessary, and how much it will increase public debt. Another option considered was expanding Tan Son Nhat Airport.

According to Thang's updated plan, only one runway will be built in the first stage, instead of two as previously decided. Adjustments were also made to reduce the cost of land clearance and resettlement.

The ministry estimated that funding outside the State budget will account for about 62.4 per cent of the total cost of the first stage, which is $5.2 billion. The second stage will start in 2023.

Head of the NA Economic Committee Nguyen Van Giau said in a report that the committee believed building a new airport would be more feasible than expanding Tn Son Nhat.

Giau said expanding the existing airport to serve 40 to 50 million passengers per year would cost $9.1 billion, including building a new terminal and runway – more than the first stage of the new airport.

In addition, Giau said expanding Tan Son Nhat would require relocating 140,000 households and would be cumbersome due to its location close to residential areas. It would exacerbate traffic and wouldn't meet air safety, noise level and environment requirements.

Other members of the NA Standing Committee, however, demanded the Ministry of Transport add more details and give clarifications before giving its plan to the NA in May.

The model of Long Thanh International Airport.

Head of the NA Committee on Finance and Budget Phung Quoc Hien said he was concerned about funding for the project. ODA will account for about 26 per cent of the cost for the first stage, but it would still be the Government's responsibility to pay back ODA and manage the airport's use.

He also suggested the ministry clarify Long Thanh International Airport's role, as it was expected to become an international transit hub for Southeast Asia.

The Government should take care in prioritizing State-funded projects, considering the plethora of other critical transport plans lying in wait, Hien said. Examples included the continued construction of the North-South expressway or revamping the antiquated railway system. Head of the NA Committee for Ethnic Affairs Kso Phuoc said authorities needed to assure that relocated residents would be able to make a living near their new homes.

Vice Chairwoman of the NA Tong Thi Phong asked for the creation of a separate project helping the relocated residents. Land clearance is a huge, sensitive issue, she said.

The NA Standing Committee also gave opinions on the draft Law on Sea and Island Resources and Environment. The NA Committee on Science, Technology and Environment agreed it was necessary to issue the law as a coherent legal framework to guide the inspection, exploration and usage of sea and island resources.

Head of the NA Committee on Science, Technology and Environment Phan Xuan Dung said the draft law would specify requirements and obligations that must be met to conduct scientific research in Vietnamese waters.

In the afternoon, the NA Standing Committee discussed the amended draft Law on State Budget.

Following adjustments, the draft law made it clear that documents related to the State budget would not be deemed confidential unless they were related to national defense, national security or national secrets, Hien said.

The State Budget Law was approved by the National Assembly in 2002 and came into effect in 2004, stipulating the formulation, execution, final account and monitoring State budget. It also covers the responsibilities of State agencies at all levels in the State budget sector. — VNS

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