Lawmakers fear new bill could weaken parliament’s oversight

By Anh Minh   May 29, 2019 | 03:46 pm GMT+7
Lawmakers fear new bill could weaken parliament’s oversight
Delegate Ton Ngoc Hanh said the National Assembly's large amount of work has led to delays in some major projects like the Long Thanh International Airport. Photo courtesy of the Airports Corporation of Vietnam.

National Assembly deputies are concerned a new government proposal could take away their power to approve major national projects.

The government Tuesday proposed a draft law on public investment that would give it the authority to approve medium-term public investment projects. It said the bill aims to reduce the National Assembly’s (NA) workload.

Many delegates disagreed with the proposal. Le Thanh Van from the southern province of Ca Mau said that the NA should approve these projects because it is mandated by the nation’s constitution.

Delegate Vu Thi Luu Mai from Hanoi said that of the VND8,000 trillion ($341 billion) set to be spent from the state budget in 2016-2020, a large chunk VND2,000 trillion ($85 billion) has been allocated for major projects.

"As an organization representing the people, the National Assembly must review this investment as this money is tax collected from the citizens."

In the bill, the government seeks more power to approve major national projects. The law currently defines major national project as those that cost VND10 trillion ($427 million) or more, and these need National Assembly approval.

The government wants this cap to increase to VND20 trillion ($853 million) so that it has more power to approve projects with lower investment capital.

But delegates are against the idea. Hoang Quang Ham from the NA Budget and Finance Committee, said that only two projects were capitalized at VND10 trillion in the last 10 years, therefore a change is not necessary.

"If the cap is raised, there might not be any project left for the National Assembly to approve."

NA Deputy Chairman Phung Quoc Hien said that "the Natinal Assembly should supervise the state budget to the last penny because it comes from citizens."

However, some lawmakers supported the bill. Ton Ngoc Hanh, a delegate from the southern Binh Phuoc Province, said that there were 9,000 projects with thousands of pages of documents, the NA does not have resources to review all of them.

The large amount of work has led to delays in some major projects like the Long Thanh International Airport in the south and the North-South Expressway, he added.

Minister of Planning and Investment Nguyen Chi Dung was also concerned that the large amount of work would reduce the productivity of the NA as there are only two sessions each year with "so much work to be done."

"The government’s proposal will help reduce the work burden on the National Assembly and at the same time maintain its status as the highest organ of state power in the country," he said.

Lawmakers will vote on the draft bill on June 13.

 
 
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