[hepr-vn] NA: Ministers accept blame under NA questioning
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Thu Nov 13 02:37:21 EST 2008
Subject: [vnnews-l] NA: Ministers accept blame under NA questioning
Date: Tue, 11 Nov 2008 22:42:40 -0800 (PST)
From: Stephen Denney <sdenney at OCF.Berkeley.EDU>
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Last Updated: Wednesday, November 12, 2008 11:40:12 Vietnam (GMT+07)
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Ministers accept blame under NA questioning
Farmers work on a rice field in the outskirts of Hanoi. (AFP PHOTO)
While the Agriculture Minister took responsbility for a forecasting
blunder, the Environmental Minister said he was not sure if pollution
caused by companies could be stopped in the future.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Cao Duc Phat, has owned
responsibility for a faulty forecast about rice harvests and export prices
which led to a temporary cessation in signing new export contracts in
April, leaving farmers counting heavy losses.
"I am personally responsible for the false forecast. I shoulder the
responsibility in front of the National Assembly (NA) and the government
about the problem, and would bear any penalty under the law," the minister
said as he took the floor to answer questions by delegates at the
parliamentary session yesterday.
His ministry had forecast a winter-spring crop output of 750,000 tons,
which led to the government's deciding to stop signing new rice export
contracts in April for fear a bad crop would affect domestic rice supply.
As it turned out, farmers harvested a bumper rice crop, and lost out on
the opportunity to make major profits at a time world rice prices had
increased four times over the average prices in 2007.
The prices have fallen to US$450-500 per ton from US$945 per ton in May.
The ministry has "strictly learnt from the experiences, and established
special agencies to strengthen forecast of production and output of farm
products," Phat said.
To reduce farmers' losses, the government has taken measures to boost
purchasing power and limit the fall in prices, he said, adding that the
government has asked two food corporations to buy a total of 1.1 million
tons of rice, and required commercial banks help rice traders with enough
capital for purchasing them.
Up to 80 percent of Vietnam's rice output is domestically consumed, and
the rest is exported, Phat said. Phat was also slammed by the deputies for
inefficient management as chair of the Central Steering Committee for
Flood Control and Prevention during the historic flooding that hit the
capital city and other areas in late October.
The floods killed at least 22 people in Hanoi and 60 others in northern
and central localities.
But Phat denied that the committee had bungled the flood situation, saying
authorities concerned had been caught off-guard by the floods when they
first hit the capital city.
But Nguyen Minh Thuyet, deputy chairman of the parliamentary Committee for
Culture, Education, and Youth and Children said action should be taken
against those found responsible for inadequate responses to the flooding.
"I am not sure"
Many deputies yesterday centered their queries on the Vedan Vietnam
pollution scandal as Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Pham
Khoi Nguyen took the floor.
In early September, Vedan Vietnam was charged with dumping around 105.6
million liters of untreated wastewater into the Thi Vai River per month.
On October 6, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE)
issued two decisions to suspend the firm's license to discharge wastewater
and fine the company VND267.5 million (US$16,700). The Ministry also
demanded arrears in environmental fees of VND127 billion ($7.7 million).
But so far the ministry and the provincial government have yet to work out
the way to suspend the firm's operations.
Speaking at the NA session yesterday, Minister Nguyen denied the ministry
and the Dong Nai provincial administration had passed the buck to each
other in this matter. He cited Article 49 of the Environment Protection
Law saying the ministry could only impose a fine on Vedan.
But Nguyen's explanation was dismissed by Le Thi Nga, deputy chairman of
the NA's Judicial Committee, who retorted that Article 49 indeed allows
the minister and the Dong Nai mayor to temporarily suspend the operations
Grilled about specific responsibilities of either central or local
authorities in the Vedan case, Nguyen just said the ministry had "drawn
experiences" from the case.
Asked whether the ministry would ensure no company would pollute the
environment in the future, Nguyen said: "I'm not sure."
Nguyen also said at the hearing the serious environmental pollution was
the legacy of Vietnamese history.
Before the country's industrialization and modernization in the 80s, 80
percent of its production establishments had outdated technology, causing
pollution, the minister said, adding that some 4,000 production
establishments and 1,450 craft villages were responsible for it.
Prices, taxes and budgets
Minister of Finance Vu Van Ninh also answered representatives' questions
yesterday, mainly on managing prices and the tax mechanism in the context
of high inflation and state budget spending.
The ministry has flexibly managed its tax policy to reduce inflation, he
said, adding that it had cut import tax on animal feed earlier this year
to increase supply and support the local husbandry sector, which was hit
by animal diseases.
Now that the situation is stabilized, the ministry has increased the tax,
Regarding the state budget deficit, the minister explained that the
country's capital demand for infrastructure construction is high, while
budget revenue raising has not increased.
The country has kept the deficit under five percent of the state budget to
ensure sustainable development, he noted, adding that if the investment
was effective, overspending would not increase inflation.
Reported by Bao Van
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