Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh was the first Cabinet member to go before the National Assembly on November 15 to answer questions about issues under his charge.

*Loss-making projects


Discharging water from hydropower plant reservoirs

Fielding the first question about loss-making projects using State capital and managed by the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the minister cited as example five prolonged projects which are the Thai Nguyen iron and steel plant, the Phuong Nam paper pulp mill, the Ninh Binh fertilizer factory, the bio-fuel plant at Dung Quat and the Dinh Vu fiber mill. He pointed out that those five projects all suffered from fluctuations in the world market, particularly the sharp drop in oil and crude oil prices from 100-147 USD to 40 USD per barrel.

Other reasons behind the inefficient operation of those projects are the limited capacity of investors, project management boards, negotiation teams and contractors.

He emphasized the goal of retaining State capital, asset and interests when dealing with those projects, adding that all solutions should be in accordance with market principles and international commitments.

“We can consider selling those projects and even declare bankruptcy if necessary,” the minister said, noting that his ministry has submitted to the Government recommended solutions and the Government will meet after the NA session to decide on specific measures.

*Overlapping State management of fertilizer market

The issue of fake, poor-quality fertilizer was raised by many deputies during the hearing. Minister Tran Tuan Anh said overlapping State management of the fertiliser market has hindered efforts to restore order. At present, the Ministry of Trade and Industry control the production and trade of inorganic fertilizers, while organic fertilizers are under the management of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Another problem is the permission of too many types of fertilizer on the market, with more than 5,000 kinds of organic and 5,700 kinds of inorganic fertilizers.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development have held many working sessions to address those problems. Most recently, the two ministries have proposed that the Government assign one ministry to manage fertilizer products and market, and relevant ministries and agencies coordinate to reduce the number of types of fertilizers allowed in the market, Minister Tran Tuan Anh said, citing the example of Thailand which allows the production and sale of just more than 100 types of fertilizers.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade is working on a set of 16 standards for fertilizer, which may be transferred to the Ministry of Science and Technology for approval early next year, according to the minister.

Explaining the issue further, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong pointed to two other major problems, one of which is the orientation in the use of fertilizer. Vietnam consumes 10-11 million tonnes of fertilizer each year, but up to 90 percent of which are chemical fertilizers.

The minister said this is a major factor affecting the quality of farm produce while causing pollution and soil degradation. “It is the responsibility of the agricultural sector to promote the use of organic fertilizer, thus gradually shifting to clean agricultural production, which is in line with the Party and State’s policy on restructuring agriculture,” he said.

* Ensuring safety when discharging water from hydropower plant reservoirs

Many deputies requested that the Minister of Industry and Trade report on the handling of violations of rules in water discharge at hydropower plant reservoirs.

Minister Tran Tuan Anh said his ministry has compiled a 20-page report on the planning of hydropower plants and reviewing their licensing and operation.

“We do not develop hydropower at any cost, and this is the guiding viewpoint of the Party, State and Government,” he said, affirming that the ministry has reviewed and considered the elimination of projects that can affect the environment and local people’s life.

The minister said there are 336 hydropower projects, with the Ministry of Industry and Trade being the main State management agency of them, while the Ministries of Construction, Natural Resources and Environment, and Agriculture and Rural Development also exercise management of those projects in several aspects.

In the time ahead, the Ministry of Industry and Trade will assess water discharge procedures at hydropower plants and review flood and storm response work in localities where there are such plants.

The ministry will assign clear responsibilities of all concerned parties, such as local authorities, dam owners, plant investors in the water discharge process, along with sanctions for any violations.

Mixed views on industry minister’s answers to questions at NA session

Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh fields questions on November 15 morning 

Voters nationwide have had mixed opinions on Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh’s answers to questions about pressing issues under his remit that were raised by National Assembly (NA) deputies on November 15. 

Anh was the first Cabinet member to directly answer NA deputies’ questions, which was part of the 14 th parliament’s ongoing second session in Hanoi. 

Dinh Kim Thai, a resident in Tan Ha ward of northern Tuyen Quang city, said while deputies focused their questions on pressing matters, the minister answered in a succinct, sufficient and straightforward manner. He also clarified the responsibility of relevant parties as well as orientations for settling those matters in the time ahead. 

Do Viet Duc, a voter in Tan Quang ward of Tuyen Quang city, also recognised the minister straightforwardly tackled questions on how to deal with five big loss-making projects, namely the Thai Nguyen iron and steel plant, the Phuong Nam paper pulp mill, the Ninh Binh fertilizer factory, the bio-fuel plant at Dung Quat and the Dinh Vu fiber mill . 

Duc asked the industry ministry and the Government to have better measures for State budget management so that such projects won’t recur. 

The official also admitted shortcomings in the management and operation of many hydropower reservoirs whose water release affected downstream residents recently, said Nguyen Van Anh from Cong Da commune of Tuyen Quang province’s Yen Son district. 

However, he did not make clear whom to blame on for those flaws, the voter noted, adding that Minister Anh pointed out local authorities’ mismanagement of fertilizer along with the overlapping management between his ministry and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. 

Huynh Thu Ha, a senior citizen in Ward 9 of Ca Mau city in Ca Mau province, perceived that although Anh just took office earlier this year, he already had a thorough grasp of issues within his remit and answered questions coherently and fluently. But he should include solutions and concrete roadmaps to handle the concerned problems in his answers. 

Nguyen Van Thuoc from the Ca Mau Union of Science and Technology Associations applauded the minister for not shifting the responsibility for existing shortcomings onto other people though he is a new minister. 

Meanwhile, Dr Nguyen Van Cuong at the Ministry of Science and Technology said he is not satisfied with the minister’s answer about the handling of the five big loss-making projects when Anh said the State won’t continue pouring money into those projects but sell away or bankrupt them. 

Cuong said there haven’t been any analyses detailed enough to determine the root causes behind losses found at these projects. He asked the industry ministry to clarify the reasons and State-owned enterprises’ responsibility. 

Sharing the same view, Nguyen Van Cuong, an economic law expert, said Anh’s answers remain vague, and they tend to give explanation instead of solutions. 

Le Kim Lien, a voter in Thanh Nhan ward of Hai Ba Trung district in Hanoi, said although the minister spoke fluently, he seemed to ward off his responsibility while fielding the questions about fertilizer management. She suggested the industry ministry take charge of licensing fertilizer production, and the agriculture ministry cover the fertilizer management.