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Deputies question Long Thành Airport investor choice.


HÀ NỘI — Heated debate broke out in the National Assembly yesterday over the Government’s preferred investor for the Long Thành Airport project, as the firm will have to borrow billions of dollars to be capable of building the airport.

The Tuesday morning session of the NA revolved around preparations for the first stage of the Long Thành International Airport, which needs an estimated US$4.8 billion of investment and will be voted on by deputies on November 26.

The Government opted to do without official development assistance (ODA) loans to carry out the project, and proposed the State-controlled Airports Corporation of Việt Nam (ACV) be the sole investor.

Bac Giang Province deputy chairwoman Hoàng Thị Hoa agreed with the Government’s decision to not borrow ODA loans as it would increase the country’s public debt.

Bình Dương deputy Nguyễn Thanh Hồng also supported the Government’s choice of a Vietnamese company to run the project.

“That will help build up the country’s aviation industry in the future and it will be a breakthrough for economic growth in the coming period,” he said.

“If Sun Group can build Vân Đồn airport, why can’t ACV be like Sun Group?,” Hồng asked, citing the example of Vân Đồn Airport in Quảng Ninh Province which was invested and built entirely by private real estate behemoth Sun Group.

‘Risks on the State’

Several deputies, however, were on the other side of the fence.

Hà Nội deputy, vice rector of the National Economic University, Hoàng Văn Cường, said the three reasons the Government gave to the NA explaining its choice were not persuasive enough.

They included ACV’s solid experience in the aviation sector, its stable financial status as 95 per cent of its shares are State-owned and time efficiency as the Government would not have to organise project bidding if the investor is already appointed.

Cường said the appointment of the ACV could shorten the preparation time by one and a half years but it might not be so throughout the entire project.

“It (the ACV) is a State enterprise so all construction items must be put to bidding, which as a consequence can delay the project. A private enterprise, meanwhile, needn’t hold bidding,” he said.

Cường also said it was too rushed to conclude that only the ACV had relevant experience in the field. And even if the AVC was the best of its kind, the deputy added, the case of Vân Đồn Airport proved the private sector could also pull off the job.

Regarding investment capital for the airport, Cường was doubtful the ACV was the best option available. The corporation would have to borrow $2.67 billion of the $4.2 billion of the total investment for the project, according to a review of the project by the NA’s Standing Committee.

“Three fourths of the investment will be from loans with complicated procedures and the risks are on the State,” he said.

“In the meantime, there are many private companies which are always willing to invest and are very flexible in mobilising capital.”

Lạng Sơn deputy Nguyễn Lâm Thành also questioned the ACV’s financial capability despite the Government’s claim that the enterprise could mobilise money from its stable revenues at 21 airports.

According to Thành, only eight of 21 domestic airports earn enough to cover their expenses or are profitable. The rest face losses and won’t be able to contribute money to the ACV in the near future.

The mega project Long Thành International Airport in Đồng Nai Province is expected to need total investment of VNĐ336.6 trillion ($14.6 billion). The new airport is hoped to alleviate overloads at Tân Sơn Nhất Airport in HCM City.