The National Road Maintenance Fund disbursed 7 trillion VND (332 million USD) last year to fix 200 roads in different parts of the country, Vietnam News Agency's Tin Tuc newspaper has reported.

The report quoted Le Hoang Minh, chief of Secretariat of the fund's Central Council, as saying the disbursement had helped localities nationwide speed up work on degrading roads.

Over 4.3 trillion VND (204 million USD) was spent on regular road maintenance and management, 135 billion VND (6.4 million USD) on buying toll collection rights for the Phu Dong Road Toll Station on National Highway 1 from the project investo,r and 27.3 billion VND (1.3 million USD) on establishing mobile truck weighing stations.

Out of the nation's 63 provinces and cities, 62 have set up their own road maintenance funds and 47 have councils to manage the funds, the report said.

It quoted Nguyen Duc Thang, acting general director of the Vietnam Road Administration, as saying the fund has eased difficulties typically faced by localities in accessing the capital they need to maintain and upgrade roads.

Until 2012, provinces and cities nationwide had to rely on the State budget for funds to maintain and manage about 205,000km of roads.

Normally, disbursement from the State budget meets less than 20 percent of the demand, and it is even lower in remote, mountainous provinces, Thang said.

He said there is no doubt that "the Road Maintenance Fund helped improve transport network, especially in rural areas".

As of January last year, there were more than 35 million motorbikes and 1.5 million cars, trucks and buses.

The amount of road maintenance fees that these vehicle owners are required to pay is decided by provincial or municipal People's Committees.

Their decision has to be made within the limits set by the Ministry of Finance, under which the annual fees for motorbikes will range from 50,000-150,000 VND (2.3-7.1 USD), and from 1.5 million VND (71 USD) for cars with less than 10 seats to 12.5 million VND (600 USD) for trucks and commercial vehicles of over 27 tonne capacity.

Ngo Huu Dung, transport department director in the central province of Quang Ngai, said in the report that in previous years, the province could afford only 8-10 billion VND (380,000 -476,000 USD) each year for maintaining 172km of roads, 70 bridges and 223km of waterways.

"Last year was the first time its funding for road maintenance reached nearly 20 billion VND (952,000 USD)," he said, adding that this has helped the province build five new roads and improve the quality of existing ones.

In a recent meeting held to discuss this year's operations, Transport Minister Dinh La Thang, who chairs the fund's management council, called for "drastic" measures to raise its effectiveness and ensure transparency.

Thang with the National Road Administration said his agency would give priority to the use of advanced equipment and methods as well as new materials to reduce road maintenance costs.

It would also open bids to select competent contractors for road maintenance projects, he said.-VNA