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Vietnam backs foreign contractors
Publication Date : 05-02-2013
The Vietnamese government has confirmed its support for speeding up the site clearance for construction projects to avoid delays which may cause losses to contractors.
Chairman of the Office of the Government, Minister Vu Duc Dam, confirmed this to media last week in response to questions about a recent case in which a Japanese contractor charged the Ministry of Transport 200 billion dong (US$9.52 million) for tardiness in Ha Noi's ongoing Nhat Tan Bridge Project.
Seeing the site clearance issue as an important factor in delays to this case along with many others, Dam said the government had assigned the transport ministry to work with local authorities to solve project problems.
The Nhat Tan bridge, one of seven planned to span the Hong (Red) River, has had an investment of 7 trillion dong ($358 million) from Japanese ODA and reciprocal capital provided by the Vietnamese Government. The Japanese Tokyu Construction Company is in charge of a 1.30 trillion dong ($62.4 million) contract package, which includes building roads connecting the two sides of the bridge to the existent traffic system.
The work started from early 2009 and the contractor pledged to finish within 34 months. However, at this stage only a reported 60 per cent has been completed due to the slowness of site clearance, which Ha Noi has responsibility for. The Tokyu Company, as a result, claimed the money as cover for expensive losses it incurred after delays caused by the Vietnamese side.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) in Vietnam, which is in charge of ODA projects, estimated the project has been delayed by two years.
Tsuno Motonori, Jica's Chief Representative said that money was calculated based on the signed contract with Tokyu as the main contractor.
"However, Tokyu also signed contracts with sub-contractors so the money is overrunning for those sub-contractors as well," he said.
"We hope that the Vietnamese Government will continue to effectively and efficiently use the ODA in the near future, based on the lessons and experiences learned from previous cases," he said, adding that Vietnam was still evaluated to be among the countries using ODA effectively.
Nguyen Quang Toan, former head of the University of Transport and Communication's department for bridges and roads, told the Nguoi lao dong (The Labourer) newspaper that the contractors must mobilise its staff and equipment to meet project deadlines. Other than that they can do no more.
"When the investor fails to meet its commitment in site clearance, it should pay the losses of the contractors," he argued.
"We need to transparently explore what went wrong in this case to help speed up and improve the quality of constructions in the future,' he said, adding that it was time to see the delays in site clearance as a severe problem in Vietnam.
In another development, Deputy Minister of Transport Le Manh Hung told local media that it would be difficult for Tokyu Company to get the money as elements of the Nhat Tan Bridge were still in the negotiation stage.
However, the ministry would discuss and draw lessons from this case, he promised.
Forty-year-old Nguyen Van Luu, a resident living near Ta Hong Dyke in Dong Anh District said the reason he was slow to move was the lack of information provided.
Luu and his neighbours' houses were in the clearance area for the construction of a flying bridge within the Nhat Tan Bridge's zone 3.
"At first, residents did not get a clear announcement about how the resettlement process would work from the management board," he said.
"When we got to talk to them, we found the compensation price and the location and quality of the new resettlement area to be unclear," he said.
Sharing a similar story from the other shore of the river, 35-year-old Nguyen Bich Thuy (not her real name), a resident in Cau Giay District's Nghia Do Ward, said that the lack of transparency in the site clearance process hindered her familiy as well as the other 10 neighbouring households from moving.
Thuy said that although the authorities had come to measure the land for site clearance for five consecutive years, there had been no further action taken.
"The project management board just has had a draft compensation offer, saying that each household will be compensated with an apartment or supported with house rent," she said. "However, they have failed to show us where the apartment is and how large it is. We haven't even got the information about the date we would have to move out," she continued, adding that for the last five years, her family and neighbours could not sell or repair their houses since they knew nothing about the resettlement plans.
"Every year, they come at the beginning and tell us to prepare to move out by the end of the year and then they disappear, again and again. Meanwhile, we the residents living in the construction area are left to wait, and wait for nothing."
Dam from the Government's Office said that there were many cases in which people living in the areas for site clearance would be resistant to moving.
"However, the country has to develop so we need to build roads, bridges and new urban areas," he said. "We need to make sure that progress and the interests of the people are in harmony".