NA concerned over security risks as Gov't mulls visa exemption for foreigners

November 14, 2019 - 16:51
Lawmakers today asked for more careful consideration of the draft amended law on exit and entry of foreigners, which would exempt visa for those who stay a duration of less than 30 days in a coastal economic zone.
Minister of Public Security Tô Lâm answers queries from National Assembly deputies as the parliament discusses the draft amended law on exit and entry of foreigners in Hà Nội on Thursday. — VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — Lawmakers today asked for more careful consideration of the draft amended law on exit and entry of foreigners, which would exempt visas for those who stay a duration of less than 30 days in a coastal economic zone.

The draft law stated that the visa waiver would be possible as long as the economic zone has a clearly delineated boundary, an international airport, and that the policy is proven to be needed for the socio-economic development of the area.

The policy is meant to institutionalise the 30-day visa exemption that is already being trialled at the island district off the coast of the southern province of Kiên Giang and provide a legal basis to apply the model to other coastal economic zones with similar conditions.

The National Assembly Committee of National Defence and Security, tasked with assessing the draft law, said that Việt Nam currently has many spacious coastal economic zones situated near strategic defence points of the country, so putting in place an indiscriminatory visa exemption for all foreigners entering these areas would pose serious security risks.

Many deputies also thought that facilitation of economic development should not come at the costs of national security and defence.

Trương Trọng Nghĩa, a deputy from HCM City delegation, criticised the policy as “too lax”, saying that while the draft amended law listed a number of requirements for the economic zones, it did not elaborate the criteria to determine the foreigners who are eligible for a visa exemption.

“The visa waiver has been piloted on the Phú Quốc Island, which is far from the mainland, and that doesn’t mean that the measure could be extended to coastal economic zones. In the context where our own sovereignty over the islands and seas is being heavily violated, regulations as stipulated in the draft amended law could lead to the risks of ill-intentioned foreigners intruding into the country under the guise of tourists,” Nguyễn Thị Kim Thuý from the central city of Đà Nẵng’s delegation, said at the ongoing meeting of the 14th National Assembly (NA) held in Hà Nội on Thursday.

“The opening up of the border needs to go hand in hand with enhanced management, on the principle that facilitation of economic development and ease of entry for foreigners would not comprise national defence and security,” Thuý said.

According to the report from the Ministry of Public Security, the number of foreigners entering Việt Nam doubled from nearly 8 million in 2015 to more than 16 million by 2018.

China, South Korea, Japan, US, China’s Taiwan and Russia are the countries and territories with the highest number of citizens arriving in Việt Nam – of which, Chinese nationals account for 30 per cent, with 14.8 million.

In 2018, most foreigners came into Việt Nam for tourism purposes, with 13 million arrivals, followed by work purposes and visiting relatives, with 1 million and 300,000 arrivals, respectively.

According to the Vietnamese authorities, in the 2013-18 period, the foreign labour workforce in Việt Nam has witnessed a trend where the number of manual labourers and technicians is decreasing while the number of those holding managerial and executive positions is going up.

Central budget distribution

Also, on Thursday, the National Assembly has adopted a resolution on the distribution of Central budget in 2020, with 90.48 per cent of approval votes.

According to the resolution, revenues into the Central budget would be VNĐ851.77 trillion (US$36.7 billion) while the expenditure would be more than VNĐ1.069 trillion.

Recurrent expenditure for ministries and other State agencies account for nearly 56 per cent of all the expenditure, while the development capital takes up only one fourth of the whole.

The Central budget will also provide financial support for regions in the country, with the northern mountainous provinces receiving VNĐ37 trillion, the Red River delta provinces receiving VNĐ16.3 trillion, the north-central and central coastal region receiving VNĐ40.3 trillion, Central Highlands receiving VNĐ10.3 trillion, VNĐ19.1 trillion for south-eastern region and VNĐ25 trillion for the Mekong Delta.

The NA has tasked the Government with assigning tasks in State budget collection, spending and allocation to ministries, central agencies and centrally-run cities and provinces in line with legal regulations.

The Government is also in charge of allocating the remaining capital of the national target programmes on new-style rural area building and on completely treating facilities causing serious environmental pollution.

The Government will implement solutions to restructure public debt in accordance with the Law on Public Debt Management, and instruct People’s Committees of centrally-run cities and provinces to submit budget collection and spending estimates to People’s Councils of the same level for approval.
According to the resolution, the Prime Minister will assign the plans on public investment sourced from the State budget in 2020 to ministries, central agencies and localities before November 30.
Ministries, central agencies and localities will submit detailed allocation plans to the Ministry and Planning and Investment no later than December 31, 2019. — VNS