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Planning sector needs much simplification

Update: August, 31/2015 - 10:13
Over the years, a total of 71 legal documents and ordinances and 73 decrees have been enacted by the National Assembly and the Government to regulate planning in Viet Nam.

While a total of 19,285 plans of all types were drafted by Government agencies and sectors from 2011 until 2020, many had shortcomings, including overlaps, wasted resources and a lack of quality.

In light this, the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) was assigned to draft a Law on Planning to take effect in 2017. Lawmakers and experts shared their opinions about the draft law with Viet Nam News reporters Thu Van and Hoang Anh.

Vu Quang Cac

What are the problems Viet Nam is facing in planning activities, and why?

Vu Quang Cac, Director General of the Department of Planning Management, Ministry of Planning and Investment

Currently, all sectors and governmental bodies of all levels develop plans based on their need to manage and regulate the socio-economic development. This has led to many overlapping plans.

For instance, the seaport development plan of Viet Nam with a vision to 2020 said Sai Gon Port would have the capacity of 89 millions tonnes per year, but the master plan for urban planning of HCM City said the capacity of the port by 2020 would be 200 million tonnes per year.

In addition, any given area is controlled by regulations issued under four kinds of planning: land-use, socio-economic development master plan, construction and sectorial and key product. This has resulted in difficulties in implementation and ineffective planning.

Mineral-use planning is made separately without consultation with other ministries. This leads to wasteful exploitation and negative impacts on the landscape.

Many plans do not serve expected goals or do not follow the principles of the market economy, and thus hinder investment and development. Ideally, the production and sale of most products should be determined by the market. However, in Viet Nam they are planned, like raising and processing pangasius (large catfish) and other agricultural products.

Dang Huy Dong, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Planning and Investment

Dang Huy Dong

As Viet Nam shifts from self-subsistence to a market economy with an open door to the world, planning work becomes even more pressing. But it is often of low quality, poor and inconsistent. The number of plans is so large that in the next few decades the country won't be able to handle all of them.

Planning in Viet Nam is very different from in other countries. Overlaps occur when sectors make their own plans without consultation. Conflicts often arise at a later stage and must be settled.

How will these problems be addressed by the draft Law on Planning?

Dang Huy Dong

The drafting committee expects that from a total of 70 legal documents and ordinances on planning, we will only have two regulating documents - the Law on Planning and the Law on Urban and Rural Planning.

The draft law will eliminate all sectorial and product planning, which will be regulated by clearly defined criteria. This will facilitate and encourage business investment and production activities.

According to the new law, Viet Nam will have 21 types of planning at the central, regional and provincial levels. Sector and field planning will be integrated into master planning at all levels except for some fields, which regulate the use of rare natural resources.

Only with a centralised planning system will we be able to produce a solution for the country's limited water, land and mineral resources. For example, when planning a city, a committee must evaluate the impacts of planning on the economy, irrigation and environment.

The socio-economic benefits for the whole society must be carefully considered. One or two ministries might have some issues about this and that, but they must not get in the way of development.

The products of planning often arise when ministries discuss the greater good with each other. The optimum solution is the end result of a negotiation process.

Do Duc Duy, Deputy Minister of Construction

Do Duc Duy

I don't think it's feasible to integrate all planning into a one master plan. Each type of planning has its own techniques, ways of approval and management requirements.

The requirements for evaluation agencies, such as ministries and public agencies, will also vary. There won't be one agency capable of handling all the planning.

Besides, it may take a long time for an evaluation agency to approve a complicated master plan. This may not meet the needs of projects that have deadlines before the master plan is approved.

I think the Law on Planning should only have regulations of a framework nature with not too many details. I don't know of any integrated master planning like the one proposed by the Ministry of Planning and Investment. Previously, similar planning for strategic infrastructure development has only been applied to seaports, airports, highways or urban areas.

Regulations on construction planning have been addressed properly in the Law on Construction. On the other hand, the draft Law on Planning currently only regulates urban construction planning, which is both vague and lacking compared against the Law on Construction.

Construction planning has its own characters and is of crucial importance, thus, it needs separate planning.

What's your view on the current planning system in Viet Nam? Any recommendations you'd like to make?

Professor Detlef Kammeier, an expert in urban and regional planning from the Bangkok-based Asian Institute of Technology

From what I've seen in Viet Nam, there are at least three, if not more, overlapping planning systems that seem to be competing, sometimes contradicting, each other.

For instance, the MPI produces plans for long term socio-economic development strategy. The Ministry of Construction produces infrastructure plan for shorter terms and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and other sectors produce separate plans for natural resources, energy and water supplies.

The result is that local authorities, which should be playing an active role in the planning for their own cities and provinces, not only lack the capacity and financial resources to participate but also are caught in a web of influence by central agencies.

However, the local authorities possess strong connections with the business sector, whose roles are key in local development. Therefore, any new planning system should be geared to enhance the position and potential of local authorities.

On top of that, the new planning system must be able to simplify the planning process, eliminate areas of overlapping and provide mechanisms for stakeholders to settle conflicts of interests.

Dr. Nguyen Quang, UN-Habitat Programme Manager in Viet Nam

We are lacking a strategic vision in planning that reflects both national and local development policies. In order to achieve that, our mindset in planning must be geared toward collaboration and away from competition.

Because only through collaboration will we be able to identify priority targets.There is a need to foster an environment for all stakeholders to share their opinions and reach a consensus on targets that our society should aim for.

Many developing countries tend to view the planning process as a measure to achieve certain objectives such as to increase GDP. Other important issues such as quality of life and environmental degradation, as a result, at times ended up being neglected.

The planning process, however, should be aimed at the long-term results of sustainable development: social equity, the preservation of the environment and of course, economic development.

Viet Nam's planning process should also include management mechanisms that encourage local authorities and business sectors to participate.

What can Viet Nam learn from world experience in building its planning system?

Professor Detlef Kammeier

Detlef Kammeier

There are four macro trends in planning: planning decentralisation, competition of collective and private interests, competing public agencies and global and regional demands on an individual country's planning system.

Of these, it is crucial to balance between collective and private interests. It is the Government's responsibility to create an environment that enhances the principles of a free-market economy.

In Viet Nam, however, the planning process is merely a process of resources allocation aimed to meet certain objectives set by the State with business development and investment activities largely left on the side lines.

In addition, the capacity of administrative agencies to appraise projects is relatively weak, leaving the whole planning system highly vulnerable to manipulation and corruption. As a result, many good projects go unnoticed while bad ones are implemented.

Dr. Nguyen Quang

Dr. Nguyen Quang

There was an urgent need to establish a set of key principles to guide the planning process in Viet Nam and there was a lot we can learn from the International Guidelines on Urban and Territorial Planning (IG-UTP), a global framework for improving policies, plans and designs for more compact, socially inclusive, better integrated and connected cities and territories.

The IG-UTP promotes a renewed governance paradigm which aims at enhancing local democracy, inclusion, transparency and accountability. It also aims for an equitable distribution of costs, opportunities and promotes the benefits of urban development with the emphasis on social inclusion and cohesion.

Planning should be used as a catalyst for sustainable and inclusive economic growth by providing a framework for new economic opportunities, regulation of land and housing markets as well as the provision of adequate infrastructure and basic services.

It should also provide a framework to protect and manage natural resources and the environment, contributing toward greater social security by strengthening socio-economic and environmental resilience, namely mitigating the adverse effects of climate change.

The planning process must target not only to better quality of life and the success of global integration but also the preservation of cultural heritages and the cultural harmonisation and diversity. — VNS

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