Ministers questioned over expressway projects and social networks

August 16, 2019 - 08:24

All 15 cabinet ministers and leaders, including Deputy Prime Minister Vương Đình Huệ, Transport Minister Nguyễn Văn Thể and Minister of Information and Communications Nguyễn Mạnh Hùng had to take the hot seat.


Transport Minister Nguyễn Văn Thể. — VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — The progress of key road projects and toll collection were among hot topics raised at a cabinet hearing held by the National Assembly's Standing Committee (NASC) on Thursday.   

All 15 cabinet ministers and leaders, including Deputy Prime Minister Vương Đình Huệ, Transport Minister Nguyễn Văn Thể and Minister of Information and Communications Nguyễn Mạnh Hùng had to take the hot seat as deputies questioned them over controversial issues.

This hearing was the first of its kind to review how the Government realised its promises made to the NASC over the last two years.

Most National Assembly deputies across 63 localities attended the hearing in Hà Nội via video conference.

Nghệ An Province's deputy Nguyễn Thanh Hiền demanded clarification from the Ministry of Transport on the controversial North-South Expressway project.

Transport Minister Thể said the ministry was currently at the stage of working on technical designs of the expressway, but it would follow three core principles when carrying out the project.

Firstly, the ministry would strictly abide by all legal procedures. It would also hold bidding in a fair and transparent manner as well as be “extremely considerate” as this was a project sensitive to national security.

The North-South Expressway is the biggest road project in Việt Nam with total length estimated at 2,100km and will run through 32 cities and provinces.

Regarding the decade-long-delayed Trung Lương-Mỹ Thuận Expressway – a key infrastructure project in the Mekong Delta, Thể told deputy Nguyễn Thanh Xuân from Cần Thơ City that the Government recently decided to pump more than VNĐ2 trillion (US$87 million) into the project.

Apart from more than VNĐ3 trillion already spent by the investor, the remaining capital needed – about VNĐ6 trillion - should came from credit institutions, the minister said.

“The Government has ordered the State Bank governor to ask for support from commercial banks to make loans of VNĐ6 trillion for the project. If we manage to have enough money, the expressway can open for traffic in late 2020,” Thể said.

Non-stop toll collection

Thể took the stage once again in the morning as An Giang Province deputy Nguyễn Văn Giàu asked if the transport ministry would be able to pull off the ambitious plan of turning all road toll booths in the country into non-stop auto toll collection booths by the end of this year.

According to Giàu, there were a total of 44 booths subject to the technology transform, but only 29 had the machines so far.

The minister confirmed the deadline of December 31 was still valid and the ministry was sending notices to road investors every month urging them to install the auto toll collection devices.

“If nothing is done, the responsibility is fully taken by the investors. We will officially suspend any toll collection at (non-auto) booths after the deadline,” Thể said.

Social network security

Foreign internet giants are getting better at complying with the Government's requests to remove inappropriate content, said the communications minister.

Minister Hùng revealed that Facebook – the most popular social network in Việt Nam – now acted on between 70 and 75 per cent of total requests compared to just 30 per cent a few years ago.

Multinational giant Apple had also improved with the rate reaching 75 per cent after rarely agreeing to take content offline as per the Government's requests in the past, Hùng said.

The video sharing network YouTube, meanwhile, also agreed to delete approximately 80 per cent of toxic content in Việt Nam, he added.

Answering deputy Đinh Duy Vượt from Gia Lai Province about efforts of the Ministry of Information and Communications to tighten management of fake and toxic news on social networks, Hùng said the recently-established National Cyber Security Centre was monitoring up to 100 million information pieces a day from the press, media and social networks.

The centre could filter and categorise positive and negative content, the minister said.

“There were times when negative information reached 30 per cent of the total content in a day - a rate which was already considered mainstream. Now we can constantly adjust it down to only 10 per cent,” Hùng added.

Hùng also expressed concerns that most Vietnamese people were using social networks which store all data collected abroad.

“As a joke, we can say that the brains of Vietnamese stay abroad if we don’t have our own social networks,” he said.

“There are many opportunities for Vietnamese technology companies to develop social networks.

“We are aiming for a 50-50 market share between foreign and local social networks by 2020-21.”       

Deputy Prime Minister Vương Đình Huệ. — VNA/VNS Photo

Black credit and loan sharks

Answering questions from Nguyễn Thị Yến, a deputy from Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu Province about the Government’s responsibilities and solutions in stopping criminal gangs and rings involved in black credit and loan sharks, Minister of Public Security Tô Lâm said the issue had caused public concern and drawn the attention of many NA deputies.

As many as 436 cases and 766 people relating to black credit and illegal debt collection were prosecuted in the first six months of this year, he said.

The police force also adopted measures to bust 1,400 loan shark gangs across the country.

Although black credit had been reduced, Lâm admitted that gangs operate in a sophisticated manner, causing anxiety for local residents.

He said that black credit was advertised online, making it difficult to control.

He said the fact that people still sought black credit and the legal regulations were unclear made it difficult for the police to deal with this kind of crime.

Lâm said the ministry would continue campaigns to suppress criminal activities, particularly rings involved in black credit and illegal debt collection.

He said the ministry would coordinate with relevant agencies in removing legal obstacles to enhance its effectiveness.

“Any individual or organisation related to black credit gangs would be strictly dealt with,” Lâm said.

Regarding the incorrect payment of unemployment insurance and the responsibilities of the Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA), minister Đào Ngọc Dung told Đà Nẵng City’s deputy Nguyễn Thị Kim Thúy that the State Audit of Việt Nam (SAV) in 2015 proposed to recover VNĐ18.8 billion.

However, after reviewing the explanation of the involved units, the audit had approved the expenditure of VNĐ5.4 billion. The remaining amount, which was improperly spent, has so far been recovered.

The SAV also detected incorrect payment of VNĐ18.9 billion. Due to lack of connectivity in the system, a number of people continued to apply for unemployment insurance after having jobs.  

Dung said next week he would work with the SAV to see how to handle each case.

In response to questions raised by Đặng Thuần Phong, a deputy from Bến Tre Province, about the development of transport infrastructure of the Mekong Delta, Deputy Prime Minister Vương Đình Huệ said the Government always considered the region a strategic position in term of security, economy, and national defence.

The Mekong Delta is the most productive area for agriculture so it is necessary to focus investment in the region.

He also said that in the past five years, the total investment from the State budget for the Mekong Delta region ranked third among the country’s economic regions with about 16.5 per cent.

From now to 2020, the Government would concentrate investment on projects which link sub-regions in the Mekong Delta such as Đồng Tháp Mười, Cà Mau peninsula, Long Xuyên quadrangle and connectivity between the Mekong Delta and HCM City.

With its advantages in terms of inland waterways, the Mekong Delta can develop logistic services for the Mekong sub-region.

The Deputy Prime Minister said that with the Government’s allocation of revenue surplus which equals VNĐ2.186 billion and credit from the bank, the Trung Lương-Mỹ Thuận Expressway project would be completed next year. — VNS