Public investment a strong pillar for economic growth

Amid the health crisis hurting the domestic economy where private investment remains difficult to attract, Vietnam will continue beefing up public investment in a bid to hit its economic growth goal for this year.

The government is expanding public investment in a bid to reach higher economic growth
The government is expanding public investment in a bid to reach higher economic growth

On March 2, the government enacted a resolution to implement the National Assembly Standing Committee’s Resolution No.1213/NQ-UBTVQH14 dated February 2 on turning the investment form of the two sections of National Road 45-Nghi Son (43km) and Nghi Son-Dien Chau (50km) from public-private partnership (PPP) into public investment. These two sections are parts of the eastern cluster of the North-South Expressway project which is considered to be vital to transport and traffic in the economy.

Earlier, in June 2020, the National Assembly Standing Committee also converted the construction of three out of eight expressway projects, which are also parts of the eastern cluster of the North-South Expressway project, from PPP into public investment. These three projects, whose construction has been expedited, are Mai Son-National Highway No.45 (63.4km), Vinh Hao-Phan Thiet (106km), and Phan Thiet-Dau Giay (98km).

According to the Project Management Unit No.6 under the Ministry of Transport, the shift from PPP into public investment for these projects will help boost the disbursement of public investment, lure private investment, and spur on local production, as well as generate employment for local labourers. This will also help expand economic growth rate, which the government is targeted at 6.5% for this year.

Need for expanding public investment

Last November, the National Assembly passed a plan for boosting public investment for 2021. Accordingly, total capital from the state budget for 2021 will be VND477.3 trillion (US$20.75 billion), up 1.4% against the similar plan for 2020. In which, money from the central budget will increase 0.9% year-on-year, and money from the local coffers will climb 1.9% year-on-year.

The VND477.3 trillion (US$20.75 billion) public investment capital will be used for many types of projects. For instance, as much as VND16 trillion (US$695.65 million) will be earmarked for national target programmes, some VND15.038 trillion (US$653.82 million) will go to the project on constructing the North-South Expressway; VND4.66 trillion (US$202.6 million) will be used for the project on land compensation and resettlement for the Long Thanh International Airport; about VND2.8 trillion (US$121.74 million) will be for developing coastal roads; and around 4.7 trillion (US$204.34 million) for supporting localities in deploying a number of key new infrastructure projects.

According to the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI), in 2021, these new investment capital sums, in addition to capital attracted from private investors, will help to complete the construction of the eastern cluster of the North-South Expressway project, the national coastal road line, connection road lines, airports, and seaports.

An MPI leader stated that in the context of numerous difficulties induced by the health crisis, expanding public investment “will be among the most feasible measures to develop the economy and facilitate it to reach the economic growth in 2021.”

“Normally it would take several years to complete procedures for a PPP project, so public investment is now a more feasible solution,” he said.

According to the Asian Development Bank, the government should accelerate public investment as one of the key pillars for economic growth in this year and beyond.

Figures from the Ministry of Finance showed that by late 2020, close to VND390 trillion (US$16.95 billion), tantamount to 82.8% of the plan allocated, was disbursed. This has been the highest disbursement rate in the 2016-2020 period – with 80.3% in 2016, 73.3% in 2017, 66.87% in 2018, and 67.46% in 2019.

Reality has shown that since early 2020, a slew of state-funded projects, mostly infrastructure ones, have come into operation, facilitating national socio-economic development.

For example, in early January 2021, the first-phase construction for the Long Thanh International Airport project in Dong Nai province was kicked off. The port is estimated to cost VND336.63 trillion (US$14.64 billion), with over VND109 trillion (US$4.74 billion) to be needed for the first phase.

In another case, in October 2020 the 5.37 km Mai Dich-South Thang Long flyover at Pham Van Dong street in Hanoi was opened to traffic, helping reduce heavy traffic jams in the area.

Another project of the type was inaugurated in August 2020, costing about VND560 billion (US$24.3 million), crossing Hoang Quoc Viet and Nguyen Van Huyen streets in the capital city.

A big direction

At the recent 13th National Party Congress in Hanoi, the Central Party Committee passed a hallmark report on assessing the results of the implementation of socio-economic development tasks for the 2016-2020 period and socio-economic development orientations and tasks for the 2021-2025 period. The report stated that public investment will be “effectively restructured and reduced in the total development capital structure.”

“Public investment will be concentrated into key sectors of the economy, key works and projects which have spillover effects and can create socio-economic development momentum, and create breakthroughs in wooing investment capital from local and foreign private sources under the PPP form,” the report stated.

According to the World Bank, Vietnam’s main instrument for macromonitoring has been the speedier implementation of the public investment programme, which has been plagued by slow disbursement in the last few years. As a result, total public investment disbursements increased from VND192 trillion (US$8.34 billion) in the first three quarters of 2019 to VND269 trillion (US$11.7 billion) during the same period in 2020 – a rise of 40%.

“Such effort, principally from the central government, has translated into an increase of investment expenditures from 4.8% of GDP to 6.5 of GDP between the first nine months of 2019 and 2020, supporting aggregate demand through the multiplier effects on suppliers and jobs over time,” stated a World Bank report on Vietnam’s economy 2020. “With any stimulus programme, the role of public investment is not just to directly stimulate the economy, but also to crowd in private investment.”

Vietnam’s economic growth hit 2.91% last year, significantly fueled by an expansion in public investment, which has helped create massive employment and consumed a great volume of materials and inputs in the economy, such as electricity, steel, and cement.

For example, figures from Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) showed that the group’s produced and imported electricity output in 2020 was 247.08 billion kWh, and its commercial electricity output reached 216.95 billion kWh, up 2.9 and 3.42%, respectively, as compared to 2019.

In the first 11 months of 2020, its public investment disbursement reached VND521.2 billion (US$22.66 million), hitting 73.6% against the initial plan allocated by the government.

According to the MPI, in such a number of big projects as the eastern cluster of the North-South Expressway project, the disbursed capital as of late December 2020 totalled VND9.96 trillion (US$433 million) out of VND10.8 trillion (US$470 million) for 11 sub-projects in last year, equal to 92.21%.

Some sub-projects (Cao Bo-Mai Son, Cam Lo-La Son, My Thuan 2 Bridge, and two leading roads) in public investment form expensed VND2.64 trillion (US$115 million) out of VND2.81 trillion (US$122 million) in 2020’s capital plan, tantamount to 94.18%.