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New funding sources needed: Minister

Update: November, 19/2014 - 08:39
Minister of Transport Dinh La Thang. — VNA Photos
HA NOI (VNS) — Transport Minister Dinh La Thang yesterday said growing infrastructure demand in the country needs new funding sources other than the State Budget and official development assistance (ODA).

Taking the floor at the National Assembly question-and-answer session, he said the transportation sector had been undergoing major restructuring and transformation, but more funds were needed to keep the momentum going.

He stressed the importance of transportation infrastructure projects, saying they were the foundation for further socio-economic development.

Over the past three years, the transport sector had mobilised VND160 trillion (US$7.6 billion) from sources outside the state budget and ODA, which had been the two principal sources that fund infrastructure, Thang said.

While the sector was looking at ways to provide concessions for infrastructure projects like highways, toll fees were not likely to rise because investors would operate under strict regulations, he said.

Thang said his ministry was well aware of the situation in many areas, especially in the mountainous region, where residents were using highly risky makeshift bridges.

The Ministry estimates that there are about 7,811 bridges that need to be built nationwide at a cost of about VND12 trillion ($571 million).

The Government had agreed to fund 186 bridges and the goal was to complete them before June 30, 2015, the minister said, adding that his agency would work with local governments on finding new funding sources for the remaining ones.

Responding to a question about the Cat Linh-Ha Dong urban railway project, which killed one person and seriously injured two others after a crane collapsed on November 6, Thang said the project was using ODA from China and Chinese subcontractors were deploying the "latest technology."

He said the Ministry had approved the project after reviewing the technical and safety details, but it had been halted following the accident for further assessment.

He assured the National Assembly that all urban railway projects would be forced to follow strict safety standards.

Transparency

Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc presented the report on the government restructuring process to the National Assembly on Monday.

There have been 18 decrees and 13 circulars guiding the practice and implementation of the Law on Public Officials and Civil Servants.

The Government has pushed for basing the recruitment process of public officials and civil servants on meritocracy, competitive entrance and promotion exams.

The number of public officials and civil servants will also be reduced by new regulation that limits new hiring to less than 50 per cent of the dismissed positions. A decree to further cut the size of public administration bodies is in its formative stage.

A central steering committee on salary and social welfare was assembled and a proposal to reform salary policies was initiated.

A number of regulations and policies to improve the economic environment and support businesses were approved, including reforms in tax and customs administration, social insurance and property and investment law.

According to the report, 4,100 of 4,700 administrative processes were simplified and 112,000 administrative documents and 11,000 documents required for administration purposes were digitalised and added to the national database.

Also yesterday, Interior Affairs Minister Nguyen Thai Binh was grilled by NA members on the reported lack of transparency in the hiring of public servants at both junior and senior levels.

Deputy Cao Thi Xuan noted that the public was unhappy with the constant reports of corruption and problems in the selection process of public sector employees.

Minister Binh said all exams related to the selection were held in accordance with the law and the Ministry was already working with several ministries, sectors and local governments to computerise some of them.

However, he admitted that there were still problems with the selection process and the Ministry had been working with the interior affairs departments and bureaus at the local level on reporting and inspecting these violations.

Deputy Bui Thi An expressed concern about the number of the number of "deputies" being appointed in state agencies at all levels, causing public distrust and wasting the State Budget.

Binh responded: "We agree that in some state offices, there are too many deputy-level positions not based on real demand. Some of these positions have been appointed for various outside reasons."

However, he said it was difficult for the Ministry to take direct action against this practice because such appointments were under the purview of provincial governments.

Binh said his Ministry would find out if these appointments had followed due legal procedures and report violations to the Prime Minister.

Highlighting another problem, deputy Do Van Duong said that brain drain from the public sector was gathering greater momentum, leaving behind "ineffective" public servants.

The Minister admitted that there were many shortcomings in the use of talent for the public sector, including salaries, bonuses and work assessments. The Ministry was studying "every possible way" to change the situation, he said.

Minister of Home Affairs Nguyen Thai Binh

As evidence, he pointed to a project that would recruit 1,000 top university graduates to work in state agencies and government offices.

Binh also said the draft decree on staff restructuring and reduction, which aims at laying off 100,000 employees of State–owned limited companies and state organizations by 2020, could begin implementation in 2015.

The Ministry was also working on a decree to introduce annual performance reviews of public servants, he said.

He said the wages of public servants including officers had been adjusted nine times since 2003, from VND210,000-1,150,000 ($10-54.7) per month, but the salary remained low and did not provide enough incentives.

Binh said the State Budget was under the strain of increasing salaries for about seven million people while budget revenues and GDP growth were not at the same level as previous years.

The Ministry was working with relevant agencies to revise remuneration policies, he said, adding that the reform process had to consider the need to increase production and eliminate unnecessary positions in the public sector. — VNS

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