Lawmakers worried about new airport cost

Monday, Oct 13, 2014 08:19

Then model of Long Thanh International Airport.

Compiled by Le Hung Vong

National Assembly members have voiced concern over the large investment required for building a new international airport in Dong Nai Province near HCM City.

They raised various issues when Minister of Transport Dinh La Thang told a meeting of the NA Standing Committee last week that the cost of the first stage of Long Thanh Airport would be nearly US$8 billion.

Thang said the numbers of passengers using HCM City's Tan Son Nhat Airport increased by 14.7 per cent annually in 2002 – 2012, reaching 20 million last year.

The number could reach the airport's maximum capacity of 25 million passengers by 2016-17 and increase to 40.4 million by 2025.

According to Nguyen Van Phuc, deputy chairman of the NA Standing Committee, most lawmakers agreed with the need to build Long Thanh Airport but had questions about several issues.

Delegates Ksor Phuoc and Nguyen Duc Hien said funding from State bonds is not available because the NA has closed the accounts for this source.

A report from the NA Economic Committee says that the airport should be carefully considered since it will require big sums of money from the Government and ODA loans at a time when public debts are rising and public funds are limited.

The first stage will cost around VND164.6 trillion (over US$8 billion), including VND84.62 trillion ($4.03 billion) from the Government, according to the Economic Committee's report.

The Standing Committee said it would be not easy to raise VND20 trillion ($952.38 million) to acquire and clear 5,000ha of land for the airport in the short time envisaged in the master plan for its development.

At a meeting of the State Assessment Council for Long Thanh International Airport on August 15, deputy chairman of HCM City People's Committee, Nguyen Huu Tin, said for Tan Son Nhat to handle the additional five million passengers a year, the city would need to invest $4-5 billion to upgrade transport facilities, including an elevated railway and roads connecting the airport.

But the City faced a shortage of land and space required for ensuring aviation safety, besides which any expansion of Tan Son Nhat, which is located in the middle of the city, would affect urban development plans, he said.

Therefore, construction of Long Thanh Airport before 2020 was imperative, he said.

Approved by the Prime Minister in 2011, Long Thanh is scheduled to open in 2020 with a capacity of 25 million passengers a year, according to Dong Nai authorities.

To be built in three phases, it is expected to be fully operational by 2035 with an annual capacity of 100 million passengers.

Construction is scheduled to begin next year. It is expected to become a competitive international airport and a key entry point to Southeast Asia.

Fisheries, aquaculture investment

Quang Ngai Province authorities have earmarked over VND6 trillion ($283 million) for developing aquaculture by 2016.

Under the scheme, VND2.4 billion ($115 million) will be invested in six fishing and safe haven ports and seven aquaculture farms.

Over VND3.2 trillion ($152.38 million) will be lent to fishermen to buy large fishing boats made of new materials, upgrade and repair boats, and buy fishing equipment.

The provincial authorities will also create favourable conditions for fishermen, providing loans of VND300 million to VND1 billion ($14,285 to $47,620) per fishing boat before a trip out to sea.

Another VND345 billion ($16.43 million) is earmarked to provide insurance cover for fishing crew, boats, and equipment.

Quang Ngai fishermen have built 117 steel fishing boats this year.

US firm to design trade centre

Saigon Trading Group (Satra), the owner of the Saigon Tax Trade Centre building in HCM City, has picked US architects Gensler and Associates International Ltd. to design a new building to replace the existing one.

According to Doan Hoai Minh, director of Satra's project management unit, the US company has been selected thanks to its technological and financial edge over other prospective candidates.

Gensler beat some 200 designers from all over the world to the job, he said.

Saigon Economic Times newspaper quoted him as saying that the company had designed some outstanding buildings like the 128-storey Shanghai Tower in China, the 73-storey Tameer Building in the UAE, and the 632-metre World Trade Centre in Saudi Arabia.

The HCM City People's Committee has entrusted Satra with the job of constructing a multi-functional 40-floor building with commercial, office, and hotel space at the erstwhile Saigon Tax Trade Centre site on Nguyen Hue Boulevard in District 1.

The facade of the new building will be in harmony with the city's architecture and downtown zoning plans.

The US firm will complete the design by the end of next month for Satra to submit it to competent agencies for consideration and approval.

The cost of the project will only be known when the final design and materials and equipment are approved, and Minh did not provide estimates.

But the 40-storey building has been approved by the city authorities, and construction is expected to get off the ground next year and be completed in 2019.

Saigon Tax Trade Center is an old structure that has become a landmark, and so certain historical architectural details would be retained in the new building, Minh said.

The centre, closed on October 1, has a 134-year history of development. First built in 1880, Les Grands Magazins Charner (GMC), as it was known, along with other French-style buildings including Ben Thanh Market, Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon Central Post Office, and Hotel de Ville de Saigon (now the HCM City People's Committee Office), was considered a part of the glory of HCM City at that time.

In the 1940s the three-storeyed building, which was really a mix of French and Asian architectural styles, comprised a western-style clock tower on top and windows in East Asian style. It was renamed Tax Plaza by the Trade Association in the 1960s. — VNS

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