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    Assembly gets hot with bauxite
    Update :Wednesday, 6-17-2009

    VietNamNet Bridge – Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang received the highest number of questions from National Assembly deputies compared to other cabinet members, 28, focusing on six groups of issues. Hoang’s question and answer session on June 11 was very hot with questions about bauxite mining projects and the increase of electricity charges.



    Deputy Nguyen Dang Trung from HCM City started the session with a very short question. Article 2, Resolution 66 dated 2006 of the NA stipulates that projects of over 20 trillion dong ($1.1 billion) must be submitted to the NA for approval. The bauxite mining projects in the Central Highlands are very big, so why didn’t the Industry and Trade Ministry ask the government to submit the projects to the NA?


    Hoang said the Tan Rai bauxite mining project, the Nhan Co alumina project, the project to build a port in Ke Ga and a railway from Dak Nong to Binh Thuan are independent projects. For example, the port and railway projects will be used to serve the people. These projects have investment capital of less than 20 trillion each so they are not subject to Resolution 66. He said projects that will be implemented in the future, such as Nhan Co 2, 3 and 4, which have capital of over 20 trillion dong, will be submitted to the NA.


    Deputy Nguyen Dang Trung disagreed with Hoang, saying that the bauxite mining project includes three phases and 12 projects which are closely attached to one another. The capital for each project is less than 20 trillion dong because the Industry and Trade Ministry chopped them down into small pieces to not have to submit them to the NA.


    Trung emphasised that the bauxite project is very important, and must be considered in three aspects: impacts and consequences on the environment, economic effectiveness and defence.


    He repeated the Politburo’s conclusion about the bauxite project: The Central Highlands is an extremely significant and sensitive area for national defence. “I think that the whole bauxite mining project must be submitted to the NA,” Trung said.


    Deputy Nguyen Van Ba from Khanh Hoa province agreed: “It was wrong that the Industry and Trade divided the bauxite project into smaller projects and said that they are independent. These projects, for example, the railway project, would be unnecessary without the bauxite mining project,” Ba said.


    Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang said that it was not the idea of his ministry and the ministry didn’t have the authority to separate the bauxite project into smaller pieces. That was the government’s plan.


    He said that the railway project is unnecessary in the early phase of alumina production. The alumina output in the initial period will be small so it can be transported by trucks. He affirmed that the railway project was planned to serve not only the alumina plant but also the people.


    Deputy Pham Thi Loan from Hanoi asked about the economic advantages of this project. The government plans to restrict exports of raw products as much as possible. The bauxite project only plans on producing alumina from bauxite ore and turning alumina into aluminum is a long process.


    Hoang said bauxite ore in the Central Highlands contains 40 percent alumina. After the refinery process, the final product will be alumina, an intermediate product, not a raw material. He said it is suitable to export alumina and then build an aluminum plant.


    Raising electricity charges to improve awareness of thrift


    Another big issue that deputies asked the Industry and Trade Minister about was the increase of electricity prices.


    Deputy Dang Thi My Huong from Ninh Thuan province asked, when the ministry raises power prices, especially in urban areas, does it consider the difficulties of students and workers who are living in hired rooms when the landlords raise power charges? Raising power prices during peak hours during a financial crisis also hurts producers.


    Hoang explained: maintaining low power prices will not encourage investment in the power sector and raise awareness of thrift. He affirmed that the ministry always chooses the best time to increase the prices to keep the economy stable and ensure the interests of the poor, while enhancing the awareness of practicing thrift in using energy among the community and building a competitive power market.


    He said that peak and low hours in using electricity were defined based on this fact. The ministry may raise the power price further during peak hours to encourage producers to move production to low hours.


    About difficulties for businesses and people, the minister promised to review and make adjustments.


    Deputy Pham Thi Loan also asked Hoang about the sluggishness in fighting against the monopoly in the power sector.


    The minister explained that organisational reforms of the Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) group must be carried out very carefully. Vietnam is short of power. Perhaps next year the country will have preventive power, which will be modest. This factor must be taken into account in restructuring the power sector.


    VietNamNet/TT/ DT

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