He made the statement at Tuesday’s press conference on the fees, which the minister said would help reduce traffic accidents, ease congestion, and create a financial source for traffic infrastructure improvement.
Meanwhile, the media has published many experts’ concerns that the proposal would lead to overlapping fees for road users, since another fee, the road maintenance fee, will be applied from June 1 under a governmental decree. They also doubt the real effectiveness of the introduction of the new fees.
Regarding the road maintenance fee, Thang explained to reporters at the press conference that it is based on the 2009 Law on Road that stipulated that a road maintenance fund be set up to create a capital source for improving the road infrastructure. However, since no government decree for the fund was made available that year, the fee has been delayed.
"Such a fee should have been applied in 2010, when the national economy was better than it is now," he said.
The country has about 280,000 km of roads, but tolls have been collected for only about 2,500 km, or 0.7 percent, which means that traffic fees have yet to be collected for most of the roads that have been built using the State’s budget, he explained.
“Our view is that anyone who uses the traffic infrastructure must pay a fee. Car users must pay more than motorbike users, who in turn must pay more than pedestrians.”
A traffic jam in HCMC during rush hour. The Transport Minister says the proposed new fees will help reduce traffic accidents and ease congestion (Photo: Tuoi Tre)
Meanwhile, the fees on personal vehicles and cars that enter a downtown area during rush hour are aimed at limiting the use of personal vehicles, easing congestion, reducing traffic accidents and creating a financial source for traffic projects.
When asked about his response to public opinion that the minimum fee of VND10 million (US$480) per car per year is too high, Thang said the fee should have been implemented 10 years ago, when the Government issued resolutions on solutions to minimize traffic accident and reduce congestion.
“At that time, the fee was proposed at VND1-2 million ($48-96), so now that it has been increased to VND10 million is normal.”
The fee rate on cars was initially planned to be VND20-50 million ($960-2,400) per year, but after receiving feedback from the public, the ministry has divided the fee into several levels, including VND10 million, VND15 million, VND20 million per year and so on, depending on the cylinder volumes of the car, Thang said.
As for motorbikes, the ministry had previously planned the fee to be VND500,000-1 million per year, but it recently split it into three rates: VND300,000, VND500,000 and VND1 million for vehicles with a cylinder volume of less than 100 cc, of between 100 and 175 cc, and of more than 175 cc, respectively, Thang said.
He emphasized that the fee will not be levied on poor people and will only be collected in five localities, including Hanoi, HCMC, Da Nang, Hai Phong and Can Tho.
The fee collection station on Hanoi Highway in HCMC. Many experts says the proposed fees will lead to overlapping fees for road users. (Photo: Tuoi Tre)
For the sake of the entire people
In replying to a question about the legal grounds of the proposal, Thang said that at the 2nd session of the 13th National Assembly the Government reported to the NA solutions to reduce traffic accidents and ease congestion. The NA later issued a resolution to approve the solutions, which include the application of the two fees.
“I confirm that the ministry’s proposal on collecting the fees has been agreed by the Government and NA. The ministry and I are responsible for the fee rates, which I consider reasonable.”
The fees are proposed for the sake of the entire population, including fee payers. When the fees are applied, road users will feel more comfortable and safer while on the street. They will no longer have to stop their vehicles many times only to inhale traffic exhaust, Thang said.
In response to questions about why the ministry has chosen to levy fees while the NA has brought forward several measures related to improving the traffic situation, Thang said the proposed fees are only one of a series of measures the ministry and relevant agencies will have to take uniformly to strengthen traffic safety and ease congestion.
Asked about a roadmap for the two fees, the minister confirmed that they would not be collected this year. “We will submit to the Government a specific schedule for fee collection,” he said.
When asked whether he fears that his bold proposal will make him lose credibility in the eyes of the public, Thang said, “We have made the proposal based on the policy of the NA and Government. I am doing what serves the common benefit of the general public. I do not care about how high or low my credibility will be. I act for the sake of the country and the people.
"If the NA continues to put trust in me, I will continue to go ahead with my work. If not, I cannot continue it.”