Railway law passed, others debated

June 17, 2017 - 10:03

More than 80 per cent of National Assembly deputies yesterday voted to approve the amended Law on Railways.

Trains at the Hà Nội Railway Station. — VNA/VNS Photo Thế Duyệt

HÀ NỘI — The third session of the 14th National Assembly (NA) spent the entire yesterday morning discussing the (revised) draft Law on Public Debt Management, for the first time.
Deputy Trần Hoàng Ngân of HCM City said Việt Nam’s public debt has risen sharply over the past few years, from 50 per cent of the GDP in 2010 to the current 63.7 per cent.
“That public debt is rising fast, the pressure on repayment of government debt is getting higher, and the government has to increase borrowing has collectively increased the demand for capital in the market, which in turn raises the interest rate of credit,” Ngân said. “Not only bad debt, public debt also contributes to rise in interest rates.”
By late 2015, public debt was 62.8 per cent of the GDP. The NA’s Resolution 25/2016/QH14 on the nation’s financial plan for the 2016-20 period has set a public debt ceiling of 65 per cent of the GDP. “This is to say that the remainder for this year is around 2.2 per cent of GDP,” Ngân said.
Currently, the demand for public investment and investment in infrastructure is pretty huge, but in comparison, the limit for public debt is quite narrow, he said. “Thus, the management, inspection, supervision and risk management of public debt to ensure public debt safety are essential.”
Ngân noted that increased public debt is not just because of the inappropriateness of the Law on Public Debt Management, there are several other reasons as well, including increased demand for public expenditure, and budget overspending.
“On average, in the past five years, overspending of the state budget has reached 5.8 per cent of the GDP, which is contrary to the target to keep the State budget overspending under 4.5 per cent of the GDP.”
“Additionally, low public investment efficiency, uncontrolled economic growth, and prolonged implementation of public investment projects also increased public debt,” he said.
Ngân recommended that public debt must be made public and updated regularly rather than only quarterly or annually, or when an NA session convenes.
He suggested that the Law on Public Debt Management must be considered in relation to other laws such as the State Budget Law, the Law on Public Investment, the Law on Management and Use of State Property, and the Law on Organisation of the Government, so as to better monitor budget spending and make optimal use of revenue sources.
The restructuring, rearrangement, merger, dissolution and equitisation of State-owned enterprises, especially loss-making ones, must be speeded up, he said.
“Public debt and public investment must be incorporated, and public investment must be focused, efficient, profit-making and pervasive so that we can balance debt. If public debt is under control, it will be managed more easily.”
Ngân pointed out that public debt management was the responsibility of the political system.
“Local authorities must be held responsible for their locality’s debt,” he said.
Deputy Phạm Phú Quốc of HCM City shared similar views. “It is necessary to define the responsibility of bodies, organisations and individuals in managing and using public debt,” he said.
Minister of Finance Đinh Tiến Dũng said that there were risks involved in the implementation of investment projects, especially those that use government loans and government loans with guarantee, as if they were unable to pay back the debt, the government had to bear the burden.
In a report to the NA on Friday morning, minister Dũng, a member of the Drafting Committee for the (revised) draft Law on Public Debt Management, said “ground reality indicates there is a lack of connection between investment decisions and obligations to pay debt.”
The minister emphasised the need to restructure the State budget and public debt, perfect institutions, wholly control risks and ensure public debt safety.
“The revised Law on Public Debt Management is essential to improve the efficiency of public investment and secure public debt, whilst keeping the legal system consistent,” he said.
Besides shortcomings in the management of public debt that Ngân spoke about, Dũng said weaknesses in the management and use of loans, and the allocation of capital sourced from public debts remain unfocused and inefficient.
Compared to the Law on Public Debt Management, which was promulgated in 2009 and came into effect a year later, the revised law has three additional chapters with 18 articles. Of the total 49 chapters in the 2009 law, 44 have been amended.

Law on Railway approved
More than 80 per cent of National Assembly deputies yesterday voted to approve the amended Law on Railways.
Earlier, NA deputies and the Chairman of the Committee on Science, Technology and Environment Phan Xuân Dũng presented a report on how the NA had changed the draft amended law in accordance with recommendations by NA deputies.
Despite support from some deputies, Dũng rejected fixing the state budget investment rate for the railway sector at 35 per cent of total investment for the transport sector, saying it would be unfeasible since budget allocation for each transport sector should be flexible to meet changing needs.
Some also called for dropping favourable income tax policies for railway enterprises as it would create unfair competition. Dũng said since the railway sector was a special sector that required huge investment while profit would take a long time to materialise, the NA Standing Committee wanted to keep this provision to attract enterprises to invest in the sector.
Some NA deputies suggested a radical change in the financial mechanism for railway operation, saying that fees for using railway infrastructure should become service prices.
Agreeing with this, the NA Standing Committee, however, said that more time was needed to realise this idea. Meanwhile, the Government will shift from collecting fees on railway infrastructure to leasing such facilities to maximise revenues, per the draft amended law.

Denunciation Law

On the same day, deputies discussed the draft amended denunciation law.
Some deputies recommended that there should be additional regulations on the forms of denunciation, such as email and telephone, while anonymous denunciation should be accepted and taken seriously.
Deputy Trần Hồng Nguyên  from Bình Thuận Province said if these denunciation forms were not accepted, information sources would be limited.
“What the draft law needs to address is offering separating procedures for each form of denunciation so that information can be processed properly, not limiting denunciation forms,” Nguyên said.
Deputy Nguyễn Bá Sơn from Đà Nẵng, meanwhile, was worried about the feasibility of this provision.
“We aren’t able to properly manage emails, telephone or faxes. In two minutes one can create an email address to send a denunciation. But the Government office which receives this email won’t be able to find the person, therefore we can’t verify the denunciation’s content,” Sơn said.
Deputy Nguyễn Chiến from Hà Nội agreed with the drafting committee that anonymous denunciations shouldn’t be accepted. — VNS