Ministries demand more airports open to private investment
Five ministries have universally rejected a proposal by the transport ministry to restrict private investment in the country’s biggest airports and instead hand the job to a single company.
A view of Tan Son Nhat Airport in HCM City.
In its proposal on mobilisingprivate investment into airports, the Ministry of Transport (MoT) suggestedfully opening three planned small-scale airports in Sa Pa town and Lai Chau andQuang Tri provinces to private firms.
Investment in 22 airports,including the biggest and those generating the highest annual revenue, like NoiBai, Tan Son Nhat and Da Nang together with the mega airport project Long Thanh,would continue to be in the sole hands of the joint-stock company AirportsCorporations of Vietnam (ACV).
Private companies couldparticipate in infrastructure projects at the airports in question, but wouldbe limited to minor tasks. ACV would be the one to manage and supervise allinvestment projects at the airports.
In a document responding to thetransport ministry regarding its proposal, the Ministry of Justice said thatfacilitating more private investment into building and running airports wasessential given the strained national budget.
The MoT should hold a thoroughassessment to scrutinise the capabilities and performance of ACV while managingthe airports.
The assessment result wouldserve as a ‘factual base’ to determine whether to go along with the proposal orto strip ACV of its current role and level the market for private firms.
The ministry said that anyairports deemed not of highest importance to be invested and owned by the Statewere found to be mismanaged by ACV should have their doors opened to privateinvestors.
The Ministry of Planning andInvestment (MPI), meanwhile, lashed out at the transport ministry’s proposalfor “not being able to ensure of both theoretical and practical bases".
It also recommended lifting therestrictions on the number of airports open to private investment. The decisionto determine whether an airport might need investment from the private sectorshould not be based on a particular list, MPI said, but rather the airport’sdemand for capital and the capability to balance the budget.
The Ministry of NationalDefence and the Ministry of Construction in their own responses to the proposalalso asked the transport ministry to reconsider its limited list of airports allowedto receive private investment.
The somewhat key role of ACV inthe proposal raised red flags from the ministries.
The justice ministry demandedthe MoT prove the legal basis for its proposal to leave ACV in charge ofselecting investors for projects in 22 airports it was overseeing.
It explained that ACV, though95.4 percent of its shares were owned by the State, was not a State-owned but ajoint stock company. Thus it was ineligible for ACV to represent the Governmentto choose investors to invest in, build and upgrade airports, the ministryadded.
The MPI was also against suchbig role for ACV, pointing out the firm was simply a State majority-ownedenterprise and not a public entity holding jurisdiction on the matter.
Handing ACV the power todetermine the private investment in aviation ports was plainly“inappropriate", it concluded.
The Ministry of Finance, meanwhile,called on the MoT to clarify the reasons why ACV was allowed to play such a bigrole in the proposal – to oversee all 22 airports and take charge of privateinvestment there – in order to maintain standards of transparency./.VNA