HA NOI — The Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Nguyen Minh Quang, yesterday acknowledged that recent land disputes in northern Hai Phong City and Hung Yen Province had provided the ministry with valuable lessons.
|Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Nguyen Minh Quang. _ VNA/VNS Photo Nhan Sang
Quang said these lessons were decisions to better protect residents' interests when there were threats of lands seizures.
Quang was the first minister to be questioned during a two-day session, ahead of the ministers of planning and investment, public security, industry and trade and Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
The Government Inspectorate estimates that lawsuits and complaints relating to land accounted for 79 per cent of all disputes up to September 2011. Most centred on compensation, land seizures and clearance procedures for socio-economic development projects and land leasing.
By May this year, there were at least 500 unresolved land-dispute cases. Quang said recent land disputes chiefly involved compensation levels and procedures for relocating residents to stabilise their lives.
"We understand the critical task here is to balance the rights of residents, the Government, and investors," he said. "We believe that similar land disputes will not expand to other localities in the country."
Accordingly, after the Prime Minister's direction, Quang said the ministry and Hai Phong authorities had worked closely together, and, in the case in question, farmer Doan Van Vuon and his family were able to continue leasing the land.
The ministry has requested all localities across the country to reassess the situation of using land near rivers and coastal areas.
In the case of land dispute in Van Giang, Hung Yen Province, Quang said residents were not happy with the Government's supporting policies, but hoped that the scale of the project, which aims at moving 160 households from a five-hectare area for a major project, would be reduced.
The ministry also has pledged to finalise the issuance of land ownership rights to all residents by 2013 and is also working on revising land leasing extensions.
At the session, NA deputies questioned Minister Quang on the situation of ineffective land use at 283 industrial zones nationwide. They said the area of industrial zones was forecast to reach 130,000ha in 2015 and 200,000ha by 2020.
At the same time, according to some NA deputies, many investors had been granted licences without a pledge to install sewage-treatment systems and meet other environmental obligations.
NA deputy Bui Thi An from Ha Noi expressed her concerns over pollution in rivers and trade villages. Quang said investment in dealing with this area had been limited, coupled with shortage of human resources and low awareness of residents and businesses on environmental protection.
Lawyer Nguyen Van Doan from Hai Phong Lawyers Association, said he hoped the NA would soon reassess all legal documents related to management of natural resources to avoid overlapping and confusion.
In addition, problems such as a lack of knowledge by local authorities and staff on land clearance procedures must also be dealt with.
During the afternoon session, Minister of Planning and Investment Bui Quang Vinh responded to questions regarding the ministry's responsibility for the management of investment activities.
He said in the context of tighter State budget, engaging all actors in economic development, particularly the private sector, was all the more important.
Nonetheless, he conceded that adopting a public private partnership model was very complicated.
Vinh said the ministry was working with certain donors including the French Development Agency and Asia Development Bank to develop relevant policies and mechanisms to make the PPP attractive enough for investors from all sectors.
"We are doing our best to improve the investment environment," he said.
In response to a question concerning the situation of wasteful public investment in many provinces, he said the root cause was local authorities being under heavy pressure to build as many roads, ports and industrial zones as possible.
|Minister of Planning and Investment Bui Quang Vinh. _ VNA/VNS Photo Nguyen Dan
"Many local leaders told me that they could do little seeing as everyone was driven by economic targets as required by the higher levels," he said.
Thus, the minister said to fully address the situation requires a complete change in economic thinking about the role of local authorities and some administrative measures should be put in place to increase the efficiency of public spending.
For example, localities would be informed about State Budget allocation over the next three years to be able to adjust their plans in accordance with the budget from their higher levels as well as their own financial resources.
Answering a question on resources for economic restructuring, Vinh said these should come from enterprises themselves while the Government's role was to come up with policies or preferential treatment to precipitate smooth transformation.
In response to the concern about the responsibility of the Ministry of Planning and Investment in letting some erring State-owned enterprises go awry, leading to a remarkable leakage of State budget, Vinh said that it was because State-owned enterprises had been granted too much autonomy that had enabled them to be free from supervision from several ministries including his.
|Government Inspector General Huynh Phong Tranh. - VNA/VNS Photo Doan Tan
"When it comes to investment projects, they [State-owned enterprises] could make decisions without having to report to us," he said.
Vinh said he agreed with the suggestion of some deputies to decrease the number of State-owned enterprises and to designate an agency responsible for monitoring their activities.
During the session, Vinh announced that his ministry has just finished a draft amendment to the decree on the management and use of official development assistance to be submitted to the Government for approval. — VNS