Minister proposes $2 bln additional investment in Mekong Delta infrastructure

By Manh Tung   June 18, 2019 | 06:00 am PT
Minister proposes $2 bln additional investment in Mekong Delta infrastructure
The Vam Cong Bridge connects the southern city of Can Tho and Dong Thap Province over the Hau River. Photo by VnExpress/Cuu Long.
The Mekong Delta’s critical infrastructural needs require an additional VND45 trillion ($2 billion) over the next five years, a minister says.

Nguyen Chi Dung, Minister of Planning and Investment, said at a Tuesday conference that the region’s infrastructure has not received sufficient investment from the government, as evidenced by the lack of several structures like deep-water ports and railway routes.

As such, the ministry is looking to propose the extra money for the next five years to invest in the delta. Half of it would be from the national budget, said Dung.

For a long time, Saigon and numerous Mekong Delta provinces have been lacking the infrastructure, including expressways, to connect them, which results in a "bottleneck holding down development of the region," National Assembly delegate Nguyen Quoc Han had said earlier this month.

Expressing the same concern, delegate Tran Hoang Ngan had said many citizens have been longing for more public investment in the region's infrastructure, especially roads.

The Mekong Delta, home to 17.5 million people or a fifth of Vietnam's population, grows half of its rice output, supplies 90 percent of its annual grain exports and is the source of most of the nation’s seafood exports.

Several key transport projects are on the plate to boost connection to the delta, including an expressway and a high-speed railway connecting Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho. While the first section of the expressway, from Saigon to Tien Giang Province, has been completed, the second section which connects Tien Giang with Vinh Long Province missed its deadline last year after construction began in 2015.

The railway route, which costs $5 billion, is expected to cut travel time between Saigon and Can Tho to 45 minutes, compared to 3.5 hours by bus. However, no date has been set for its construction.

In some relief, the long-awaited Vam Cong Bridge over the Hau River was opened to traffic last month after six years of construction and repairs, finally replacing a 100-year-old ferry service across the river.

The $270-million cable-stayed bridge is only the second that crosses the Hau River, one of two tributaries of the Mekong in Vietnam, after the first one was launched 10 years ago. It is expected to smooth transport between the delta and HCMC and nearby industrial provinces like Binh Duong and Dong Nai.

Normally, the traffic jams would last for hours, especially outside the ferry station, during holidays when people in the delta travel home or go back to work.

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