Vietnam lawmakers worry about official-investor nexus on public land

By Anh Minh   May 27, 2019 | 05:10 am PT
Vietnam lawmakers worry about official-investor nexus on public land
The Government Inspectorate in 2018 ordered HCMC authorities to revoke the 5,000-square-meter land on Le Duan Street in District 1. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
Vietnamese lawmakers allege that investors with close ties to officials are benefiting from transactions involving public land.

Dinh Duy Vuot, a National Assembly delegate from the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai, said Monday that some officials were allocating public land directly instead of organizing public bids for it as legally mandated.

Many investors have become rich by acquiring land this way, getting it at lower evaluations because they have close ties with local authorities, he added.

Pham Trong Nhan, a delegate from the southern province of Binh Duong, said that some project conditions have been changed on investors’ demand, instead of making them obey the law.

"There are projects whose building density has reached 40 percent, while regulations cap it at 21.6 percent, and number of floors in a building has reached 48 while the cap is 20."

Mai Sy Dien, a representative from central Thanh Hoa Province, said many local authorities have transferred land to businesses without an official document on land allocation or leasing, which is a severe violation of the law.

Land evaluations have differed for different investors at the same time in the same locality, he said, adding that this showed there were investors who were favored by authorities.

In recent years, Vietnam has seen major violations in land transfers and acquisition. Last year, government inspectors asked Ho Chi Minh City to revoke a piece of public land at a prime location, saying violations had caused multimillion dollar losses to the state budget.

The land lot, nearly 5,000 square meters (nearly 6,000 square yards) at 8-12 Le Duan Street in District 1, was designated in 2007 for a project to build a commercial center and a five-star hotel.

HCMC authorities should have carried out a bidding process to select a prestigious and experienced investor; instead they allowed a joint stock company, following requests from the Ministry of Industry and Trade, whose units had leased the lot, to acquire the land, said the Government Inspectorate.

Lawmakers at the ongoing NA session demanded changes to stop the gross violations.

Vuot of Gia Lai proposed that the country strictly punishes those who use land for the wrong purposes and that such properties are retrieved.

Dien of Thanh Hoa called on the government to stop paying build-transfer (BT) project investors with land, while other lawmakers said that Vietnamese citizens should be prohibited from being proxies for foreigners in acquiring land.

Lawmakers also requested that Vietnam’s land and zoning laws be changed to reflect these proposals. Ministries and local authorities need to make amends of their misconduct and report to the next National Assembly session in October, they said.

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