NA questions trade management

The Government's handling of illegal trading, cross-border smuggling and unethical medical practices was critically examined by the National Assembly yesterday.

Minister of Trade and Industry Vu Huy Hoang answers questions raised by National Assembly deputies on management of foreign traders, illegal minerals exports, electricity shortages and trucks transporting farm produce getting stuck for days at border gates.— VNA/VNS Photo Nguyen Dan

Over two sessions, the National Assembly Standing Committee questioned the Minister of Trade and Industry and the Health Minister on several issues. They called for improved management of issues that raised public concern.

During the morning session, Minister of Trade and Industry Vu Huy Hoang answered questions raised by National Assembly deputies on management of foreign traders, illegal minerals exports, electricity shortages and trucks transporting farm produce getting stuck for days at border gates.

Deputies remarked that in some localities, foreign traders had entered the country and directly participated in the collection and purchase of farm produce, causing market disorder and a dearth of raw material for domestic agricultural production.

Minister Hoang responded that under current regulations, foreign traders without legal business entities in Viet Nam were not allowed to collect or purchase produce for import or export other than through collaboration with domestic enterprises directly engaged in these activities.

Admitting that foreign traders had directly collected and purchased farm produce in some localities over the past several years, he said it was an illegal activity against which action had been initiated.

The ministry had reviewed its legal framework and ordered market watch forces in concerned localities to inspect and resolve the problem. As a result, several localities had reported that such violations had not happened since early this year, Hoang said.

He said that the situation had happened because State management agencies had failed to fulfill their duty to disseminate information and raise farmers' awareness in order to prevent foreign traders from doing business illegally in the country.

Hoang also admitted that the ministry had failed to work with other relevant agencies to handle the issue in a timely manner.

In response to deputies' questions about illegal exploitation and export of minerals that caused severe environmental pollution, losses to the State budget and raw material shortage for local production, Hoang said the ministry would co-operate with localities, particularly in mountainous areas, in carrying out regular inspections and strengthening control over mining and mineral trading companies.

Hoang also answered deputies' questions about hundreds of trucks transporting Vietnamese produce, mostly watermelons, to China being stuck at border gates in the northern mountainous province of Lang Son Province over the past week.

The Minister said the situation had been happening for several years now as a result of limited capacity at border gates.

The Tan Thanh border gate, for example, was capable of clearing 300 trucks each day but thousands were queuing up, waiting to go through the customs procedures to enter China, and local officials were overworked, he said.

Unplanned, excessive production of farm produce in some localities also played a part in creating this problem, he said.

The ministry had worked with other agencies to ask the customs department to extend working hours by more than two hours per day and proposed that China take measures to expedite clearance, Hoang said.

Power shortage

When deputies expressed their concern about the shortage of electricity for agriculture and fisheries production in the Mekong Delta region, Hoang said supply was closely linked to local power supply plans.

The national utility could only earmark investment capital for areas that already planned their electricity needs, he said.

So, in a situation where the rapid expansion of aquaculture created an imbalance in electricity supply and demand, it was not possible to immediately address the problem, the minister said.

He said that to meet demands estimated in national plans, the country needed to mobilise VND30 trillion ($1.4 billion) to invest in electricity distribution infrastructure for rural and mountainous areas from now until 2020.

He proposed that the National Assembly accord priority to the sector and earmark capital from the State budget to deal with the situation of power shortages in several localities.

Medical ethics
In the afternoon session, Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien answered deputies' questions about measures taken to improve medical workers' ethics, investment in local health clinics to reduce overload at central hospitals and State management of private healthcare facilities.

She admitted that a number of medical workers had displayed unethical behaviour and poor attitude towards patients, raising public concern and outrage.

Her ministry issued a circular on medical workers' ethics and promoted professional education and training for medical staff, apart from stepping up inspections and strictly punishing violations, she said.

The ministry successfully launched a round-the-clock hotline service for patients to report bribery, irresponsible or high-handed behaviour by medical workers, and other violations, she said.

Over the past five months, the hotline received more than 2,000 calls, 40 per cent of which were complaints about the poor attitude of medical workers, while 25 per cent drew attention to substandard medical facilities.

The hotline services helped the ministry to update health check-up and treatment situation and punish violators in a timely manner, she said.

Concerning violations by private health clinics including those operating without licence, overcharging and employing doctors without professional licences, Tien said the ministry worked with localities to carry out inspections of these clinics including those providing cosmetic surgeries.

They issued warnings to and revoked the licences of several facilities, she said.

Regarding investment in local healthcare facilities, she said this was always a top priority in national programmes, but the high demand for health checks and treatment was difficult to meet.

Concerning drug prices, the minister said they were not as high in Viet Nam as claimed. She said a study commissioned by the ministry had found that prices for some drugs in China and Thailand were 50-150 per cent higher than those in Viet Nam.


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