She expressed her disagreement as she asked the fourth session of the current parliament to review and pass a resolution on “special mechanisms” that would confer the southern metropolis with greater administrative autonomy.
The proposal was presented to the NA session by Finance Minister Dinh Tien Dung yesterday morning. He said that HCM City, the ‘economic locomotive’ of the country, had slowed down in recent times.
The city is also facing numerous challenges including increasing population, insufficient infrastructure development, environmental pollution and climate change that it can tackle more efficiently with greater autonomy, he said.
The proposal says that the special mechanisms for the city would be in line with the Constitution, the general direction of the country’s development, and implemented in the “spirit of transparency and accountability.”
The NA Finance and Budget Committee, which has assessed the proposal, has said that it agrees with the content, but stresses that the ‘special policies’ must not affect the prevailing role of the Central Budget. It has also said that overspending and public debt should stay within the range decided by the NA.
NA Chairwoman Ngan said that while she recognises that HCM City needs special mechanisms for its future development, she cannot accept giving it authority to increase all taxes, and to keep 100 percent of proceeds thereof.
HCM City leads the country in its contribution to the State Budget. In 2017, 82 percent of its tax revenues went into the central budget, and only the remaining 18 percent was retained by the city, she said.
“Autonomy for the city to increase certain taxes such as environmental protection or excise taxes is acceptable. But I don’t agree with the government’s proposal to let the city have the authority to increase taxes of all sorts, excluding import export taxes. This is unacceptable since it will just undermine the city’s competitiveness,” she said.
However, the leader of the legislative body agreed that the city can have the authority to decide the use of rice fields larger than 10ha – a decision that can only be made by the Prime Minister at present, to prepare for large-scale investment projects.
“I remember Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s former Prime Minister, once said that if he had limited resources, he would grant such resources to those that can get rich, so that they can make money and the whole country would have more to distribute among other localities. If such limited resources are distributed evenly, then all (localities) would progress slowly.”
Other mentionable items in the proposal include allowing the city to pilot implement the Law on Property Tax, levied on real estate; a mechanism to decide the salary for its civil servants, experts and scientists, independent of national regulations.
The proposal would also allow HCM City to manage the capital value gained from equitisation of State-owned enterprises under the city’s jurisdiction, and it would enjoy 50 percent of revenues from land use fees generated from State-owned land, while the existing law requires 100 percent of such revenues to go to the State budget. In addition, HCM City can use its capital and funds from other legal sources to carry out midterm investment projects.
Defence law amendments
In another group discussion on the draft amendments to the Law on National Defence, NA deputies agreed that these were needed to institutionalise Party guidelines and the 2013 Constitution.
However, some deputies voiced their concerns over the feasibility of the planned changes, as they would require nine other laws to be adjusted and passed by 2019, when the draft law is set to take effect.
NA deputies also discussed the “economic activities” of military units or the convergence between “economy and national defence,” calling for a clear delineation between purely for-profit business activities conducted by units under the military management and economic activities that serve national defence.
Phung Duc Tien, a deputy from the northern province of Ha Nam, said there was a true need for the military’s economic activities, especially “in border areas of critical defence importance, as failure to alleviate poverty among the local population would make it very difficult to ensure national security.”