Nguyen Xuan Cuong, deputy chief of the ministry’s road department, made the statement after local media reported that the collection of the new road fee which started on January 1 has been confusing agencies in charge of enforcement and causing vehicle owners trouble as well.

In fact, Thanh Nien reporters have found that authorities in many provinces and cities have yet to collect the fee from bike owners, although it has been regulated that motorbike owners must pay the fee, VND50,000-150,000, at their local people’s committee office every year.

The reason was that authorities did not have enough time to prepare a detailed plan to collect the fee, and have it passed by local people’s council – the lawmaking body - as regulated before January 1. The fee was not approved until late November last year.

For example, in Ho Chi Minh City, chairmen of people’s committee offices at local wards and communes said they are still waiting for orders from the municipal authorities before collecting the fee.

Speaking to Thanh Nien, Nguyen Van Thanh, chairman of Da Phuoc Commune People’s Committee in Binh Chanh District, said it was “hasty” to start collecting the fee on January 1, given that the time is near Tet - Vietnamese New Year, meaning that all agencies are busy with year-end jobs and preparations for the New Year.

Dang Van Khoa, member of the Vietnamese Fatherland Front, which monitors government activities and policies, in HCMC, agreed. He suggested the ministry should delay collecting the fee from motorbike owners to lessen the financial burden on people during Tet, and give authorities more time to better prepare.

In the meantime, Le Van Hoat, vice chairman of Hanoi People’s Council, told Thanh Nien that local authorities have ordered the transport department and related agencies to prepare a detailed plan to submit to the lawmaking body for approval.

He said they will organize a session to discuss the plan some time in late March or early April, stressing that it is necessary that the plan receive the green light from lawmakers before it is launched, because the fee collection is a “big matter” involving lots of people.

“Moreover, people still have different opinions about the fee, so if we collect it in a hurry, it will not be effective,” Hoat said.

On the other hand, a report on VTC News website Saturday said that while many car and truck owners have come to their local vehicle registries where roadworthiness certificates are granted to pay the fee since January 1, many complained about the cumbersomeness of administrative procedures.

They said authorities should have applied advanced technologies like allowing them to pay the fee via their bank accounts instead of making them wait in long queues, it said.

Under the regulations, automobile owners must pay VND1.56 and 12.48 million ($74.18-593.48) annually or when obtaining roadworthiness certificates at local vehicle registries at stipulated intervals of three to 30 months.

According to the news report, many owners still expressed their dismay over the fee, even though it had already taken effect, calling it “unfair,” because they already pay tolls on many roads.

Earlier, when the ministry announced its plan to collect the fee, it had drawn widespread criticism from the public and transport companies who made the same argument. They said that the ministry should have delayed it, given current economic difficulties.

So far, over VND44.6 billion ($2.13 million) in road fees have been collected, Saigon Giai Phong (Independent Saigon) newspaper quoted the Vietnam Register as saying on Saturday.

There are currently some 35 million motorbikes and 1.5 million cars in Vietnam, from which the ministry expects to collect some VND6 trillion ($286.66 million) in road fees this year.

Thanh Nien News - January 5, 2013