Members of the National Assembly Standing Committee (NASC) agreed on March 15 that the revised railway law needs comprehensive regulations that will help revitalise the country’s railway industry.
Under the draft of the revised law which was on the NASC’s agenda, the Government gives priority to developing, maintaining and protecting national and urban railways in accordance with approved national transport development planning.
The Government calls for and will support organisations and individuals in investing or running railway businesses.
The draft sees a new regulation on Government supports for the study and adoption of advanced science and technology in a modern railway sector.
Phan Xuan Dung, Chairman of the National Assembly Committee for Science, Technology and Environment, said that the compilers of the law include the committee and transport ministry – who also proposed a regulation in which the Government spends a proper proportion of the mid-term and yearly State-budget on railways.
Modest investment has been blamed on the slow development or even lagging behind of the railway sector in Vietnam.
Since the draft for the revised Railway Law was on the NA’s agenda last November, the compilers made changes following the opinions of deputies. For example, the updated draft includes regulations on the construction of railway stations and service areas. The updated draft removed the regulation in which enterprises are not allowed to provide services on State-owned railway routes which the Government had assigned them to operate.
Instead, railway businesses are regulated as conditional businesses and the Government would issue a list of requirements.
NA Vice Chairman Phung Quoc Hien stated that in 2015, funding for railways accounted for 1.6 percent of the State’s transport fund while roads received over 92 percent, inland waterways 1.9 percent, marine transport 3.3 percent and airlines 0.3 percent.
He said that Vietnam concentrated too much on roads and called for a balance in investment across different transport modes as well as better links among the four modes.
Transport Minister Truong Quang Nghia said that railways in Vietnam had the advantage that they could stretch from north to south.
“Once rail becomes the top option for carrying passengers and goods, transport costs will drop,” he said.
Head of NA’s Justice Committee Le Thi Nga said that roads and coach services had improved over the last few years, becoming very attractive to passengers while railway services were struggling. To boost the railway sector detailed policies are needed.
Tackling NGO violations
Also the same day, NASC members looked into the amount of fines imposed on violations by non-governmental organisations (NGO) that had been proposed earlier by the Government.
Speaking at the session on behalf of the Government, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son said operations by Vietnam-based NGOs generally abide by the country’s laws. However, violations still persist, including operating without registration licences, renting offices without permission, or office addresses that are different from those stated in registration licences.
Son added that there were also organisations engaged in activities that go against social ethics and the country’s interests.
“There are also those trying to meddle in the country’s domestic affairs with activities such as attempting to influence structural reforms and changes to the law, or releasing announcements that slanders Vietnam adherence to human rights and religious freedom,” Son said.
As for the organisation of international seminars or conferences, common violations include organising without obtaining permission or having permission but failing to consult with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or related localities and agencies; and not reporting the results of seminars and conferences to competent authorities as required.
To ensure the strict adherence to the law and increase the awareness of NGOs in Vietnam, the Government proposed to the NA a maximum fine of 30 million VND (1,300 USD) for violations in NGOs’ operations.
Meanwhile, a maximum fine of 20 million VND is proposed for violations in the organisation of international seminars and conferences.
Head of the NA’s Legal Committee Nguyen Khac Dinh said the majority of the committee’s members agreed with the amount the Government had proposed to tackle violations in the operations of NGOs, despite the fact that they were rare.
They said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could also impose other kinds of punishments, aside from penalties, such as revoking registration licences, or expelling responsible persons from the country in case of severe violations.
They also concurred with the proposed 20-million-VND fine on violations in holding international seminars and conferences.
However they said it is necessary to clarify that this is the maximum amount that can be imposed on individuals. In case of violations by organisations, the amount should be doubled.
At the end of the session, the NASC voted to agree on the amounts that the Government had proposed.