But, in order to prevent such occurrences, we should look at the truth to correct these in accordance with the spirit of right policy needing right implementation.

The Cai Lay BOT toll station in Tien Giang. (Photo: tuoitre.vn)

Resolution of the 11th National Party Congress defined one of the key tasks for national development in the 2011-2015 period as “Building synchronous economic infrastructure system, especially transport, which is causing obstacles to economic growth.”

The 4th meeting of the 11th Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee (CPVCC) approved Resolution 13-NQ/TW dated January 16th, 2012, building a synchronous infrastructure system in order to basically turn Vietnam into a modernity-oriented industrial country by 2020. At the same time, strategy for socio-economic development in the 2011-2020 period also specified building a synchronous infrastructure system with some modern projects focusing on the transport system and big urban infrastructure as one of the three breakthrough phases.

For this reason, mobilizing socialized capital sources under BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) contract to invest in economic infrastructure is very necessary and is a right policy of the Party and State in the context of limited State budget. Many BOT projects, especially in transport, contributed to boosting socio-economic development of each locality.

However, together with the achievements, we must recognize that BOT is a new investment type, with legal institutions not completed, that shows shortcomings in mechanism, policy and State management. 

Typically, Cai Lay BOT toll station in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang operated from August 1st, 2017. However, many drivers used small change to buy tickets to protest the location of the station. This incident made the station severely congested for several days. On August 15th, it had to let drivers pass through to ease traffic congestion. At 09h00 of November 30th, Cai Lay BOT resumed fees with ticket price for each type of car reduced by 30%, from VND25,000 - VND140,000.

However, drivers continue to oppose the fee collection, making the station constantly let them pass through it for about 24 times before the “tactics” of paying VND25,100 to ask for VND100 back.

The tension and conflict surpassed the scope of the booth. And, on December 4th, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc decided to temporarily postponing fee collection for 1-2 month. 

However, not only Cai Lay BOT met trouble, but this incident has been occurring at some BOT toll stations in other localities. People have said “there’s no smoke without fire”. Indeed! According to regulations, any two toll booths should be at least 70km apart. But, a recent report of the National Assembly showed that 79 out of 88 BOT toll stations (equivalent to 90%) have the distance of less than 70 km.

Earlier, on November 30th, at a meeting to review the progress of the project of collecting non-stop fees on National Highway 1 and Ho Chi Minh road through the Central Highlands held by the Ministry of Transport, Minister Nguyen Van The affirmed that in the future, public opinion will be less pressing for BOT projects. 

He stressed it is important to be transparent so that people can understand and share the incident. That is transparency in the input of projects through balance-sheet and transparency in output through publicity of revenue. To achieve this, by 2019, all BOT stations must apply automatic fee collection technology in all lanes.

We find that the concerns of people are not unreasonable because drivers have the right to choose: paying fees for good and newly-invested road with high speed or paying no charge for older road with slow speed. But, in spite of not driving through the bypass road which is invested by BOT project, they still have pay fees at the toll station.

Many people believe that apart from the wrong location of the toll station, the reason causing the disagreement is lack of transparency of investors in building the project.  

Aiming to solve the inadequacies of BOT projects, Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung said that the Government will strengthen the control of quality of transport infrastructure projects from the phase of setting up, appraising, and deciding investment to carrying out the investment and exploitation.

The troubles at Cai Lay BOT and some other BOT projects, as well as directions of the Government, have shown the lesson of transparency and publicity. More than ever, agencies drafting and promulgating laws should assess the real impact to build policies which gain people’s faith.

Meanwhile, the Government leader’s decision of temporarily postponing fee collection at the Cai Lay BOT toll station is expected to have a definitive solution for the station and other BOT booths. This is also a test of people’s faith in the tectonic government.

However, it is necessary to confirm that the confrontation cannot last long because it can cause more unpredictable corollaries. It needs a right decision to put out the small fire before a big fire breaks out.

The most important solution is that the right policy should be implemented properly. Fairness is needed for people participating in traffic in all areas. Considering, reviewing and dealing with inadequacies through dialogue and listening to opinions of people are necessary before making decision./.

BTA