Monday,  Sep 24, 2018,11:31 (GMT+7) 0 0
When urgency really means it
The Saigon Times Daily
Monday,  Oct 16, 2017,18:26 (GMT+7)

When urgency really means it

The Saigon Times Daily

The owner of the Metro Line No. 1 project in HCMC in recent months has repeatedly sent urgent petitions to authorities asking for funds to pay contractors, stressing that the project may come to a dead halt if capital for the project is not ensured. Nevertheless, such urgent proposals have almost fallen on deaf ears.

The metro line project, which is now 40% complete, links Ben Thanh Market in the city’s downtown area to Suoi Tien Park in District 9, and plays a crucial role in the city’s transport, needless to say. However, says the HCMC Management Authority for Urban Railways (MAUR) as the project owner, it is paperwork and red tape that have been putting the project under tenterhooks, as contractors have threatened to suspend all construction works if they are not paid in due time.

At a meeting last Friday, MAUR urged the city government to quickly advance payment of VND1,173 billion for the contractors this month and next, otherwise the project will get stalled. Consequences under that vision are tremendous, as the city’s traffic infrastructure development plans will be adversely affected, compensations to the contractors will be huge, and the final cost will rise further due to delays.

Japan has agreed to extend loans for the huge project, but the capital cannot be disbursed since it is yet to be determined how much capital from the central State budget should be allocated for the project. To date, the Ministry of Planning and Investment, the Ministry of Finance and the HCMC government have not agreed on the amount of capital to be borne by the central Government. As long as a consensus is not reached among these parties, the project cannot be submitted to the National Assembly for endorsement.

As stated, it is not the lack of funds, but the complicated procedures regarding public investment procedures that have menaced the project. 

However, this sticky issue is not a newly-surfaced problem.

The HCMC government on August 25 signed a decision advancing VND500 billion from the municipal budget  for the project, while pending disbursement from the central Government. On September 8, MAUR again sounded a big alarm bell over the shortage of funds for the project, as the advanced payment from the city’s budget was just a situational solution. 

In July, following a proposal by the city authorities, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc had urged the Ministry of Planning and Investment to work with relevant agencies and the HCMC government to address the problem, and report the result to the Government prior to July 30. Specifically, the Prime Minister had agreed to extract funds from the public investment plan for 2016-2020, at nearly VND21 trillion, for HCMC to finance infrastructure projects, but just one third of the sum had been disbursed so far.

Months have elapsed, but the knot is still untied.

Considering all the benefits that the Metro Line No. 1 project if executed on schedule will bring about for HCMC as the economic locomotive of the country, and weighing all the potential damages if it is delayed simply by paperwork, it is high time there be a taskforce to fast-track the project. The urgency in this case really means it.

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