Vietnam lawmakers question expensive high-speed rail plan
Lawmakers in Vietnam's National Assembly clashed over a government plan for a 56-billion-dollar nationwide high-speed railway, local media reported Wednesday.
Legislators said the project would plunge the country into unaffordable debt.
"Some deputies say this project will awaken a fairy who has long slept in the jungle," deputy Nguyen Minh Thuyet was quoted as saying in the newspaper Thanh Nien. "I think the first thing the fairy will say when she opens her eyes is, 'Where's the money?'"
Responding to a deputy who said countries with high-speed rail had high IQ levels, Thuyet said, "my IQ is quite low, so clearly I don't support this project."
The railway would link Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City by 2035 with a 1,600-kilometre bullet train that could make the trip in under six hours. The system would be built by Japanese companies, and the Japanese government has promised financial backing.
But Tokyo recommended the project be scaled down to shorter links, saying the full Hanoi-Ho Chi Minh City trajectory would not be economically efficient. Last week the World Bank said it would not fund the project, which it considers overly ambitious for a country at Vietnam's stage of development.
Experts consider high-speed rail to be competitive with air travel over distances up to 800 kilometres.
Transportation Minister Ho Nghia Dung told the assembly Tuesday that the project would "create economic and social interest in the regions it passes through." Dung earlier acknowledged that the project would not be economically efficient.
"We are a weak nation, but we defeated a great imperial power," Hanoi deputy Nguyen Ngoc Dao said, referring to Vietnam's military victory over the US in the 1970s. "Why are we discouraged by 56 billion dollars?"
Deutsche Presse Agentur - June 10, 2010