Stalled Vietnam seaport underscores economic woes, mismanagement (SOEs) • Washington Post

HANOI, Vietnam. Sep 24, 2012 — All that remains of a plan by Vietnam to build a major deep-water port is 114 exposed pilings trailing into the South China Sea and a barge full of rusty machinery.

Van Phong Port, April 2011

Foreign investors stayed away from the $3.6 billion project and the indebted state-owned company overseeing it bungled the job. Earlier this month, the government accused the company of “financial incompetence” and suspended the project. The prospects for ever reviving it are dim.

The abandoned port in Southern Vietnam stands as a symbol of the inefficiency of the country’s rulers, and the need to reform a massive web of state-owned enterprises weighing down a once-booming economy.

Critics say it also shows how provincial governments and state-owned companies are allowed to pursue expensive, misguided and often corruption-laced infrastructure projects that result in riches for the few, but not economic growth that would benefit the country of 87 million people.

The government is asking foreign and domestic investors to bankroll its flagship Van Phong port now that the Vietnam National Shipping Lines, or Vinalines, is out of the picture. But analysts say that’s unlikely because the project, which was slated to have 37 wharves, isn’t near any important manufacturing bases in the region and was impractical from the start.

A better option, they said, would be developing road and rail around ports in greater Ho Chi Minh City and also developing a deep-water port near the northern city of Hai Phong. A proposed large port near Hai Phong has spurred controversy lately over escalating costs and potential dredging problems.

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