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NA adopts State budget estimate

The monthly basic wage of State employees will increase from VNĐ1.39 million (US$59) to VNĐ1.49 million ($63) from July next month thanks to a resolution on next year’s State budget estimate adopted by the National Assembly yesterday.— VNA/VNS Photo Phương Hoa

HÀ NỘI — The monthly basic wage of State employees will increase from VNĐ1.39 million (US$59) to VNĐ1.49 million ($63) from July next month thanks to a resolution on next year’s State budget estimate adopted by the National Assembly yesterday.

Following the basic wage hike, pension, social insurance allowance and allowance for revolutionary contributors will be adjusted.

The resolution assigned the Government to continue directing central and local agencies to streamline State payroll and reorganise the administrative apparatus.

The portion of the State budget allocated for public units will be cut down to give priority to wage reform policy.

The resolution estimates more than VNĐ1.41 quadrillion ($60 billion) for total State budget collection and over VNĐ1.63 quadrillion ($69.5 billion) for State budget spending.

The NA agreed to set budget overspending at VNĐ222 trillion ($9.45 billion), including VNĐ209.5 trillion ($8.9 billion) from the central budget and VNĐ12.5 trillion ($0.55 billion) from local budgets.

The total overspending is estimated to be equivalent to 3.6 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

The State budget will borrow an estimated total of over VNĐ425.2 trillion ($18.1 billion).

The NA also approved the allocation of a remaining package of VNĐ10.38 trillion ($441.7 million) from the 2017 budget to make up for central and local budget deficits and support localities in implementing the wage policy.

The NA has tasked the Government with fiscal and monetary policies to support production, stabilise the economy, control inflation and accelerate growth.

The resolution has also urged the Government to ensure the transparency of State budget expenditures to avoid wastefulness.

Alcohol’s harmful effects

Minister of Health Nguyễn Thị Kim Tiến submitted a draft law on the prevention of alcohol’s harmful effects which would ban the sale of alcoholic beverages to consumers under 18 years old.

The draft law aims to reduce the burden of diseases on public health systems.

Tiến highlighted the urgent need to approve the law as alcohol consumption in Việt Nam has reached an alarming level. 

Việt Nam has a large number of male drinkers.

The World Health Organisation estimated that the average Vietnamese person over 15 years old consumed 8.3 litres of pure alcohol in 2016.

The country ranks the first in South East Asia and the third in Asia for beer consumption.

Nguyễn Thúy Anh, chairwoman of the NA’s Committee for Social Affairs, which is in charge of assessing the draft law, said the law should give more priority to policies aimed at young people and adolescents.

It also bans any advertisements of beverages with an alcohol content of 15 per cent or higher and proposes levying a special tax on alcohol products to reduce their harmful impacts.

“Việt Nam is one of the countries selling alcoholic beverages at the cheapest prices,” Anh said. “One litre of alcohol is half the cost of one litre of milk. It is easy for consumers to buy and use these products. The tax increase is a necessary solution to reduce consumption.”

The committee proposed using the money raised by the tax to prevent the harmful effects of alcohol.

Regarding the ban on advertisements at sporting and cultural events for children and students, Anh said advertisements must also be banned before and after the events.

The ban on selling alcoholic beverages on the internet has received a split response from the examining agency. Opponents argue the ban is not feasible and counters the e-commerce trend.

The committee proposed the Government review the practical conditions and learn from other countries’ experiences to assess the regulation’s impacts before putting it into practice.

According to Tiến, the draft proposes tightening management of traditional homemade liquor, looking towards reducing liquor production and sales by 2023.

Provincial people’s committees are responsible for encouraging local households not to sell unlicensed alcohol. Provincial authorities have been tasked with checking the quality of traditional homemade alcohols and sending the results to the Ministry of Industry and Trade by January 2023.

The committee asked the Government to conduct a detailed evaluation of the draft law and its compatibility with Việt Nam’s commitments to the World Trade Organisation and other international bodies. The committee requested the Government evaluate the impacts of policies and administrative procedures that would arise from the law. 

The draft law is expected to be approved at the next NA meeting in the middle of next year.

Law on Cultivation

On the same day, deputies discussed the Law on Cultivation.

Deputy Mùa A Vàng from Điện Biên Province said the law needed to have clear and strict regulations on cultivation activities to ensure food hygiene and safety, biological safety and environmental protection.

“The Law also needs to foster connection in cultivation activities and strengthen the efficiency of large-scale farms and large-scale production models,” Vàng said.

Meanwhile, deputy Hoàng Văn Hương from Sơn La Province said the law should have regulations on strictly controlling fertiliser production.

Individuals and companies producing fertiliser must have a clear plan for environmental protection that is approved by relevant authorities, he said.

“That will enable the Government to control the plan for environmental protection of individuals and companies before granting licences, and therefore will limit potential consequences in case such individuals and companies do not follow their commitments,” Hương said.

Deputy Trần Thị Hằng from Bắc Ninh Province raised concerns about the import of low-quality plant varieties.

She said there should be regulations to strengthen the inspection of plant imports, and measures that allow punishment when violations occur. She suggested a co-operation mechanism between management bodies.

Nguyễn Hồng Sơn, Director of the Việt Nam Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said the Law on Cultivation was expected to create effective management tools for cultivation activities.

“The country’s agricultural production is still scattered; connections are not good enough to create large amount of goods with equal quality,” Sơn said. “We don’t have proper regulations on the effective exploitation of land and water, either. So regulations that manage cultivation are essential to ensure sustainable development and move to a large-scale production model.”

He also said that when the Law is approved, localities would have to adjust their production scale based on the demand of the market. Farmers would have to follow the orientation of a certain production area. This would make it easier for authorities to keep close control on the quality of goods, he said.

Administrative procedures in cultivation activities would be reduced, Sơn said. These include procedures to recognise plant varieties, which would be reduced from the current three to seven years period to between one year and one and a half years. — VNS

— VNS