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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        23  April 2011

Vietnam ministry urged to revamp road contracts

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With comprehensive regulations lacking for the upkeep of roads and other infrastructure built under build-operate-transfer (BOT) and other contracts, investors fail to maintain them, and stakeholders are urging the Ministry of Transport to create a legal framework to resolve this problem.

According to the ministry's Department of Planning and Investment, there are 29 BOT works with a total investment of VND138.8 trillion (US$6.6 billion) in the country, many of which are already operational.

Nguyen Ngoc Long, vice chairman of the Viet Nam Bridge and Road Association (VBRA), which consults on transport infrastructure, said many BOT investors were not willing to spend money on upgrading and maintaining them.

All they worry about was recouping their investment as soon as possible, he said.

Between 70 percent and 80 percent of large BOT projects, mostly roads and bridges, had switched to other business models after becoming operational.

For instance, Binh Trieu bridge connecting Binh Thanh and Thu Duc Districts is a BOT project but due to the inconvenience of collecting tolls at a city gateway, the municipal authorities had to take it over from the investor.

Tran Quoc Toan, deputy head of the Ministry of Transport's Department of Road and Bridge Infrastructure, said many developers of BOT works did not even make plans to maintain them once they were in use.

He blamed this on the fact that BOT contracts have no stipulations on upgrades or maintenance once they are in use.

They just said vaguely that investors should "upgrade or maintain roads and bridges after five or 10 years", and were silent on penalties for failure, he said.

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