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VietNamNews

Highway rest stop investment: good idea or road to nowhere?

Update: September, 27/2013 - 10:08
 This week:

Overseas Vietnamese may have to satisfy stricter regulations to claim exemptions from import tax and value added tax on cars and motorbikes they bring back home.

A draft circular outlines several measures to control the number of vehicles brought back by overseas Vietnamese - and make sure their owners are not trying to avoid paying taxes.

Under the draft circular, they will only be able to bring home cars less than five years old (from the production date to the date of arrival in Viet Nam). Motorbikes must be less than three years old and must be models permitted in Viet Nam.

The vehicles must clear customs with certificates of technical safety and environmental protection granted by quality inspection agencies.

Currently, every repatriate bringing a car back to Viet Nam is exempt from both import tax and the VAT.

The number of luxury vehicles brought in by repatriating viet kieu has rapidly increased, with more than 1,140 cars in 2012 compared with 164 in 2011.

Do you think Viet Nam should continue allowing imported cars and motorbikes to enter the country as expatriate assets? How can the Government prevent people from taking advantage of this to avoid taxes? Will the influx of cars overcrowd the streets? When you first come to the country, are you surprised by the sight of luxury cars in the street?

Please reply by email to: opinion@vnsmail.com, or by fax to (84-4) 3 933 2311. Letters can be sent to The Editor, Viet Nam News, 79 Ly Thuong Kiet Street, Ha Noi. Replies to next week's questions must be received by Thursday morning, October 3, 2013.

Last week, Viet Nam News asked readers for their impressions of roadside rest stops along national highways during their trips in Viet Nam and what they thought about a Ministry of Transport plan to build 150 new ones by 2030.

Lars Verswyvel, Belgium, Phan Thiet City, Binh Thuan Province

Instead of focusing on rest stops, the transport authorities should invest in roads. We have had a business here for more than 10 years and the situation is getting worse.

The road infrastructure in Viet Nam is really lacking. Speed limits of only 30km per hour at many places means you get nowhere fast. Travelling 200km takes up to six hours on National Highway 1.

John MacDonald, Australian, Ha Noi

Once again, it is unclear what the Government is trying to do by announcing that it will build 150 rest-stops along national highways.

Presumably the main idea is to enable bus and car passengers to use clean toilet facilities and have a refreshing snack while their vehicles are refuelled.

But, if the three rest-stops already opened in northern provinces are being avoided by bus drivers, something may not be working.

Hopefully, the Vietnamese rest stops are not emulating their Western counterparts which are known for serving up stale food at inflated prices.

The suspicion is that the bus companies get a kick-back for offloading a load of bored and hungry passengers.

Vietnamese authorities should make sure there is no doubling up of government and private rest-stop services.

If there are already private facilities available on many sections of a highway, maybe it's best just to make sure that they provide clean facilities and fresh food - at reasonable prices. A few mobile inspectors could keep them on their toes.

And if any new rest-stops are necessary - private or Government-run - they should be placed strategically. This is not rocket science.

Anyway, if the worst comes to the worst, there is generally a thicket of trees.

Satoh Kumiko, Japanese, Ha Noi

In the last five years, transport and tourism companies have developed better services for passengers. So I think it's reasonable to also provide more rest-stops on long journeys. Clean and green rest-stops would be ideal.

Right now in Viet Nam, there are many small restaurants and shops offering drivers and passengers a break, toilet facilities and local products. However, most of them are unhygienic and sell high price goods.

I was on a bus to Ha Long Bay last month and both on the three-hour trip, we stopped at a stop for half an hour. There was a dirty toilet with no clean water or toilet paper. The products being sold were limited and expensive. A bottle of drinking water was double that in Ha Noi.

So I eagerly await good rest stops along highways in the north, especially those connecting Ha Noi to Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Hue, Da Nang and Binh Dinh. Another road in dire need of rest stops is the Ho Chi Minh Highway, which has almost no rest stops.

Tran Van Dinh, Vietnamese, Hai Duong Province

Opening rest stops along national highways is good to help ease the strain on drivers and passengers.

However, I am confused about how the Government plans to run the stops and also compete with small private rest stops already operating. Where are the financial sources to run the stops?

I run a shop selling local products on National Highway 5. Bus passengers treat it as a small rest stop. Not all passengers stop to buy goods or food. If they only stop for a rest or to go to the toilet, income would be insufficient.

Vietnamese passengers tend to select cheap goods and often don't care about quality. However, foreign passengers do care about the quality. So the Government rest stops should serve Vietnamese and foreign passengers well.

Charlie White, Australian, HCM City

I disagree with the road stops. I think effort should be put into making rail journeys really restful. There should be a rail link with Phnom Penh. Border formalities should be carried out on the train while it is in motion.

Everything possible should be done to reduce traffic on the roads. There would be huge savings in health care if traffic accidents started to fall. Urban transport should also be transferred to light rail and trams.

Natalie Tolkacheva, Russian, HCM City

I welcome the plan to build more rest stops on national highways. Besides easing the weariness for travellers, they will also help promote tourism.

Clean and beautiful rest stops that also provide reasonably priced food and drink, will surely become an attractive feature for those travelling along highways.

Rest stops can also be good places for localities to sell special products or souvenirs.

I have visited some private rest stops on highways from HCM City to the Mekong Delta and to Da Lat City and was impressed with the great services they offered. — VNS

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