November 14, 2019 20:35

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Revising the Law on Public Investment: Don’t worry about lack of laws but worry about lack of responsible officers

18:43 | 14/06/2019

VCN - This is the comment by economist Ngo Tri Long (photo) in an interview with the Customs Newspaper around important issues of the Law on Public Investment (revised) which is being reviewed by the National Assembly.

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revising the law on public investment dont worry about lack of laws but worry about lack of responsible officers

At the 7th session, the National Assembly will give comments and adopt the Law on Public Investment (revised). What is your assessment about this?

There are many opinions around the important contents of the draft Law on Public Investment (revised). Many experts still support the provisions of the current law and recommended the removal of difficulties and shortcomings in the management of public investment capital with the aim of improving the effectiveness of public investment. The revision focuses on strengthening administrative reforms and promoting decentralisation. I agree with the view of the National Assembly members that shortcomings in the Law on Public Investment are only a very small part, and most of the current problems in the field public investment are due to the unserious implementation.

Although revision of the Law on Public Investment 2014 is necessary, however, before adoption, many contents in the draft are still a hot concern. For example, the authority to decide the list of medium-term public investment projects belongs to National Assembly or the Government, which is not specified, what is your assessment about this?

This content is a matter of great concern and receives different opinions. The Standing Committee of the National Assembly also offers two options. The first option is the National Assembly shall decide the list of projects funded by the central budget, in case of necessity, the National Assembly shall authorise the Standing Committee of the National Assembly to decide on the list and capital level of public investment projects and report to the National Assembly at the first session, and the second option is the National Assembly shall decide only the list of important national projects and the Government shall decide the list of projects funded by the central budget. The current obstacle is the authority.

The drafting committee said the Ministry of Planning and Investment proposes to strengthen the reform of administrative procedures, promote decentralisation and create initiative for ministries, branches, agencies at the central and local levels, which is also a problem leading to many conflicting opinions, because according to this proposal, the National Assembly, the legislative body, only decide on the policy, but adjustment during in the implementation must be decided by the executive body which is the Government.

I think that there is a need for decentralisation of procedures and initiative in the implementation. The reason is that the National Assembly only hold two meetings, if every change in the medium-term public investment plan requires a National Assembly meeting, it is really difficult. But it is also said that if every change must be approved by the National Assembly, the National Assembly does not need to hold the meeting and can authorise its Standing Committee. Because the recent decentralisation by the executive body has caused consequences and problems.

The recent shortcomings of public investment are not due to regulations, if any, they are only a small part and are being revised, but the main reason for those shortcomings are due to the unserious implementation. This is the reason why there are still many arguments between the executive body and legislative parties on the authority to decide the list of medium-term public investment projects. I agree with the first option because the executive body is aware of specific projects. This means that the law should be revised in the direction of strengthening administrative procedure reform; promoting decentralisation and creating the initiative for ministries, branches, central and local agencies, but the decentralisation must be right and designated units must be responsible for the implementation.

In terms of criteria for classifying key national projects, the Government proposes to increase the criteria for classifying national key projects from VND 10,000 billion to VND 20,000 billion and double the capital level for classification of projects A, B, C compared to current provisions. But most National Assembly members choose the option to maintain the provisions of the current Law on Public Investment. What is your opinion?

I would choose to maintain the current provisions on the criteria for classification of key national projects of VND 10,000 billion and the criteria for classification of projects A and B, C as per the current law. In fact, at present, there are many errors and loopholes in the implementation at subordinate agencies, thereby wasting resources, so raising the criteria may cause a lot of consequences. For example, there are very large projects but because they want to avoid approval by the National Assembly, the investors have divided them into small projects, thus leading to loss and wastefulness.

In addition to the above problems, which contents in the Law on Public Investment (revised) need to be removed to improve the efficiency of using public investment capital?

Currently, the National Assembly has released the key contents of the revised Public Investment Law for discussion and received many different opinions. In my opinion, these contents appropriate and deal with problems. But when the revised law is adopted, how to implement it is of importance.

In addition to the key contents attracting the public opinion, there are many other important contents in the revised Law on Public Investment. They are innovating regulations on management of capital which is retained for investment but not included in budget capital, or innovating in the formulation, appraisal, approval of investment policies or decisions on investment; adjustment, appraisal and approval of projects; assignment and adjustment of public investment plan in accordance with the capital source or improving the efficiency of public investment. The reason for the revision is not due to the law but it is because as decentralisation is implemented more, procedures become simpler and more transparent.

The revision of the Law is absolutely reasonable. The National Assembly also appreciates this but the implementation needs to be guaranteed.

It is said that the origin of revision of the Law is to change the regulations and the method of selecting investment projects which are eligible to be included in the projects of the list of medium-term public investment projects funded by central budget to prevent arbitrary, subjective decisions on the investment policies.

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Or regarding the management of public investment over the past time, there were problems in the management of the establishment, appraisal, approval of the policy, projects or the development and assignment of implementation of investment capital allocation plan, related to decentralisation. I think that the biggest difficulty in the Law on Public Investment is the implementation, so it is commented that the country does not worry about lack of laws but worries about the lack of responsible officers.

By Thu Hien/ Huyen Trang