Experts back controversial airport project
VietNamNet Bridge – Leading economic experts and scholars have thrown support behind a highly controversial international airport in Long Thanh District, Dong Nai Province.
Long Thanh International Airport model
The Long Thanh International Airport project has stirred debates over its necessity as it might cause a huge financial burden for the country which is already grappling with rising budget deficit and public debt.
Tran Dinh Thien, director of the Vietnam Institute of Economics, told a seminar in Hanoi on Monday that Vietnam needs a modern international airport. “I think Vietnam will need a big-ticket airport to support its further development and integration,” he stressed.
Thien noted that there will be significant developments in the region in the coming years as China and Thailand plan to dig a canal through the ASEAN country and that a project to build a railway linking Vietnam’s Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province and Myanmar as suggested by the Asian Development Bank is in the offing.
Thien told the Daily on the sidelines of the seminar organized by the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences that it is important to develop Long Thanh airport into an aviation hub to create a linkage with the Cai Mep-Thi Vai port complex in neighboring Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province.
“Does Vietnam want to play a crucial role in regional integration? If Vietnam wants to integrate successfully, the nation should develop an aviation hub instead of an airport terminal,” Thien said.
Luong Hoai Nam, general director of Hai Au Aviation Joint Stock Company, said he backs the project as Long Thanh airport is envisioned as a major intersecting point of flights, roads, highways, seaports and waterways.
Nam said the planned international airport should have been built a decade ago as Tan Son Nhat International Airport is facing overload.
Tran Du Lich, deputy head of the HCMC delegation of NA deputies, said the country is expected to have a major international airport like Long Thanh in the south instead of Tan Son Nhat only.
However, Lich said he is concerned about the impact of the new international project on Vietnam’s rising public debt and about possible corruption at the project.
Nguyen Xuan Thanh, director of the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program, said a study by the program has shown the airport project would have positive impact on economic growth.
Thanh called for the Government to spend big on Long Thanh if it wants to attract investors to the project as it is not attractive now in terms of profit as its profit margin is small.
Thanh proposed considering the closure of Tan Son Nhat between 2030 and 2036 to focus resources on the Long Thanh airport to maximize its economic benefits.
Meanwhile, aviation expert Nguyen Thien Tong still insisted the National Assembly (NA) not approve the project as more time would be needed to thoroughly study the project.
“The pre-feasibility study of the project has not met requirements,” Tong explained.
Transport Minister Dinh La Thang said most of the experts at the seminar shared the need to develop the Long Thanh airport, including Tong who said the airport should be in place when Tan Son Nhat is overloaded.
Thang affirmed that there has not been any plan to close Tan Son Nhat and this airport will not be closed.
He said some 60% of funding for Long Thanh airport project would be mobilized from private investors and the remainder from the State budget and official development assistance loans.
Earlier, the ministry reported that the cost of the airport project would be US$15.8 billion, including around US$5.2 billion (VND109.97 trillion) for the first phase. Of the total investment in phase one, the State budget is expected to contribute VND12.15 trillion, or 11.1% of the total, ODA loans VND29.18 trillion (26.5%) and other sources VND68.64 trillion (62.4%).
The NA will examine the Long Thanh airport project and is expected to decide on the project at its ongoing session this Thursday, around one month after the Party Central Committee gave the nod to the project.
Thang was quoted by the local news site VnExpress as clarifying at the seminar that the feasibility study of the megaproject would be made if it gets the green light from the NA.
Long Thanh airport is designed to have only one runway and one terminal having a capacity of 25 million passengers per year in the first phase. The second runway and another terminal would be built in the second phase to handle 50 million passengers annually before the handling capacity is increased to up to 100 million passengers a year.SGT