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NA permits Gov’t to choose investor for Long Thanh Int’l airport

The Government has the right to choose an investor for the Long Thanh International Airport project in the southern province of Dong Nai, according to the National Assembly (NA) Standing Committee.

The decision followed recent heated debate at an NA meeting over the Government’s preferred investor for the project, as the firm will have to borrow billions of dollars to build the airport.

The NA Standing Committee, in its report sent to NA deputies last weekend, noted that, under the Bidding Law, investor selection is under the jurisdiction of the Government, but it said that the Government should ensure that its chosen investor abide by principles of national defence and security, national interests and financial efficiency.

In addition, the airport investment must not exceed 336.63 trillion VND (16 billion USD) at the time of approval by the NA, the committee said.

The NA Standing Committee has demanded the Government speed up land clearance for the huge project, saying that the current process was too slow and that land for construction would not be available by the end of next year.

As authorised by the PM, Minister of Transport Nguyen Van The had submitted a feasibility report in the first phase of the airport at a cost of 111 trillion VND to the NA.

The feasibility report said the Government had proposed naming the State-owned Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV) as the main investor, but lawmakers expressed concern over the ACV’s financial capability to pay for the project, which could cost up to 16 billion USD.

According to a feasibility study, the ACV, which runs 21 airports nationwide, will invest in the first runway, taxiways, a terminal, an aircraft parking space, and other major infrastructure at the airport.

The ACV will need to raise about 98 trillion VND for the project. It is expected to have 36.6 trillion VND (1.57 billion USD) by 2025, or 37 percent of the investment. The ACV has been working with 12 domestic and international organisations to borrow the remaining at an interest rate of 5-5.5 percent a year with a loan term of 15 years.

In addition, the Government has also proposed naming the Vietnam Air Traffic Management Corp (VATM) as the investor in the control tower and other safety features. The VATM would need to raise an estimated 3.22 trillion VND for the purpose.

The VATM has 2.12 trillion VND, or 66 percent, of the needed money. The VATM would borrow the rest from local credit institutions with an interest rate of 11 percent a year.

The Long Thanh airport was approved by the NA four years ago, but funding has remained a big question, even as construction of the first phase is set to start next year. To be built in three phases over three decades, it is expected to become the country’s largest airport.

The first phase is scheduled for completion in 2025, with a capacity of 25 million passengers a year. The next two phases would run from 2030 to 2035 and from 2040 to 2050. Once completed, it would have an annual capacity of 100 million passengers and five million tonnes of cargo.

Located 40km to the east of HCM City, the Long Thanh airport is expected to relieve overloading at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in HCM City, the country’s largest airport./