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ECONOMYCONSTRUCTION

Vietnam orders installation of electronic toll collection nationwide by year-end

Updated at Sunday, 10 Mar 2019, 14:40
The Hanoitimes - The move aims to boost transparency in toll collection and avoid tax evasion.
Vietnam has set the deadline for installing electronic toll booths in all expressways nationwide by the end of 2019 in an effort to boost transparency in toll collection. 
 
A toll booth in Ha Long city, Quang Ninh province. Photo: Baoquangninh
A toll booth in Ha Long city, Quang Ninh province. Photo: Baoquangninh
Minister of Transport Nguyen Van The said earlier this week that any toll station without electronic toll collection (ETC) would be shutdown after the deadline. 

The ministry will open international biddings for ETC suppliers for 33 toll stations nationwide and those with operations in telecommunications would have an advantage, in order to speed up the ETC process, the minister said. 

The statement shows the government’s tough move in managing highways which are mainly constructed under build-operate-transfer (BOT) mode. 

The legislation has already been passed by Vietnam’s National Assembly but the government makes little progress in the implementation over the past three years.

Why ETC?

ETC aims to eliminate the delay on toll roads, bridges, and tunnels by collecting tolls without cash and without requiring cars to stop. 

Open road tolling is a popular form of cashless tolling without toll booths; cars pass electronic readers even at high speeds without causing safety hazard or traffic bottlenecks.

According to local companies, electronic payment would also optimize the company’s efficiency while reducing risks of drivers’ embezzlement.

“With a fleet of 120 semi-trailers, it is also more convenient for us to be billed at the end of each month rather than collecting hundreds of toll receipts from drivers for tax declaration,” Ha Xuan Quynh, director of Thong Nhat Co., Ltd in the northern province of Bac Giang, said at the Ministry of Transport's meeting, according to the Tuoi Tre newspaper. 

Why do BOT developers delay ETC?

Before the government requires the ETC on expressways nationwide, BOT developers took all control on toll collection and make self calculation on cash revenues to report to state agencies. Meanwhile, the related agencies conduct regular inspections every several years. 

 
Protest causes traffic congestion at a toll booth. Photo: VTV
Protest causes traffic congestion at a toll gate. Photo: VTV
The operations have enabled BOT developers make use for tax evasion. People suspect that the toll stations are falsifying their collection records. 

Frauds in fee collection have been detected at the Ho Chi Minh City – Trung Luong Expressway Toll Station and at the Long Thanh – Dau Giay gate in the south. 

Prof. Nguyen Trong Hoa, former director of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Planning and Architecture, told the Lao Dong newspaper that the developers deliberately delay the ETC.  

Many BOT projects show vested interests and the developers want to lengthen time for toll collection before their revenues are disclosed through the ETC, he said. 

Echoing Hoa, Dr. Ngo Viet Nam Son, a transport expert, said that investors of BOT projects and vested interests are afraid of publicity and transparency, according to Lao Dong.

Impacts 

Economist Le Dang Doanh, a former advisor of the prime minister, told the Giao Duc Viet Nam e-newspaper “Lack of supervision in toll collection at several BOT road projects has enabled the developers to raise toll at high levels, largely driving up input cost of many businesses.” “It can be said that toll would harm Vietnam’s competitiveness in the context of globalization and the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community,” he noted. 


Toll collection at BOT projects remains a thorny issue which the government has made efforts to solve and the people are concerned about. 

Unreasonable installation of toll berths along expressways and high toll have triggered indignation among locals and drivers. A number of drivers paid toll with small-value banknotes to show their protest. Some strikes protesting the issues have taken place across the nation.
Linh Pham
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