Restarting fee collection after more than three months of halt, the tension at Cai Lay BOT toll station once again recurred. Drivers have strongly reacted and protested in many ways, resulting in the repeated discharge of the station for the last few days.
Some economists said that Cai Lay toll station should be relocated due to its unreasonable location.
According to Ph.D. Le Dang Doanh, former Director of Central Institute for Economic Management (CIEM), the Cai Lay issue was obvious. "If there is not a satisfactory solution for Cai Lay, it will leave negative effects and set bad precedents for the society," Doanh said.
Ph.D. Le Dang Doanh said that in the world, BOT road sections are always built parallel with the existing roads. If people want to take the good road and go faster, they must pay a fee. Otherwise, they still have the right to go on the road without any charge.
Meanwhile, according to him, BOT projects in Vietnam are densely growing, but the plan had not been discussed with the people; most of the contractors are appointed, and the bidding process was not public. Consequently, the opposition is inevitable.
A solution to Cai Lay issue should be the relocation of the toll booth. The new location can compensate the investors for the construction of National Highway No.1.
In the long run, however, there is a need for a clear and transparent legal framework for public, private, PPP, BOT or BT forms of cooperation.
Sharing the same view, according to Nguyen Khac Giang, Vietnam Institute for Economic and Policy Research (VEPR), the drivers’ protest in Cai Lay is basically not about the fee. As a result, that the Ministry of Transport reduced the toll fee by 30% and provided free services to the local was unsuccessful.
According to Giang, in fact, BOT cooperation has made good roads for the people and charge quite high fees, such as Hanoi - Hai Phong expressway, but the people still accept them. Meanwhile, Cai Lay toll booth is located on the trunk road, which leaves the people no choice and angers them.
He said that the State must provide convincing proof that the establishment of the toll booth and fees are reasonable. If not, there must be strict punishment for the relevant agencies and the booth has to be relocated.
"The authorities should promote the transparency in the bidding process, project selection, and toll booth establishment. Recently, many projects have illegally prolonged the fee collection time due to the lack of transparency, which triggered the public opinion," Giang recommended.
On December 4th, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc had a meeting with the leaders of the Ministry of Transport, the relevant agencies together and the leaders of Tien Giang province to find solutions for Cai Lay.
PM has decided to suspend the fee collection activities on the bypass of Cai Lay for one to two months so that the Ministry of Transport can continue to clarify all the issues and recommend practical solutions.