Tran Viet Hung, Deputy Head of the Central Highlands Steering Committee spoke to the newspaper Thoi bao Kinh te (Vietnam Economic Times) about the significance of the opening of the 663km-long National Road 14.

* In your opinion, what will be the impact of National Road 14 on ethnic people living in the Central Highlands?

National Road 14 is 663 km long. It is a part of the 3,183km Ho Chi Minh Highway running from Lang Son in the upper north to Ca Mau on the southern cape.

Before it opened on July 11, travelling from Ho Chi Minh City to Buon Ma Thuot in the Central Highlands or vice versa took 12 hours. In the rainy season, it would take much longer time. But now the time has been cut to nine hours.

The completion of the road 18 months ahead of time has contributed to socio-economic development as well as the defence and security in the Central Highlands.

In addition, the road will become a driving force for economic development for all provinces that it runs through.

* How do you anticipate capacity to attract investment in the Central Highlands following the opening of National Road 14?

Following the second investment promotion conference held in April, 2013, 262 projects were registered in the Central Highlands with a total capital register worth 50 trillion VND (2.3 billion USD).

The third investment promotion conference held in the Central Highlands in May this year focused on social security. At that conference, representatives from the five Central Highlands provincial People's Committees of Kon Tum, Gia Lai, Dak Lak, Dak Nong and Binh Phuoc awarded investment certificates to 13 projects with a total with a total registered capital of more than 16.6 trillion VND (770.5 million USD).

I'm confident that with the opening of National Road 14, many more investors inside and outside Vietnam will choose the Central Highlands as their investment destination.

* Quite a few people have complained about the high toll fees on Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) roads. How do you respond to that?

At present the Ho Chi Minh Highway has five toll stations. It is projected that the toll will be about 30,000 VND (1.40 USD) per vehicle. This means, if the vehicle travels the whole length, drivers will have to pay 150,000 VND (6.90 USD). So, if we compare what drivers can save and the fee they have to pay, no doubt the driver earns a lot of benefits.

For example before National Road 14 was completed, the travelling time of a vehicle from Dak Lak to HCM City was about 12 hours. But now, it has been cut to eight hours. As a result, each driver can save almost one third of fuel costs.

Roughly speaking, the new road will help Central Highlands authorities save more than 3 trillion VND (138.8 million USD) per year. This is much higher than the annual revenue collected by some provinces in the region.

* More recently, the Central Highlands Steering Committee petitioned to the Ministry of Transport to ask the Government to use the State budget to buy back toll stations on Road 14. Will you please further elaborate?

Last April, when road 14 was about to be completed, the Central Highlands Steering Committee asked the National Assembly Standing Committee and the Prime Minister to consider the possibility of using the State budget to buy back a few finished BOT projects on the Ho Chi Minh Highway running through the Central Highlands. This would have meant road users would not have had to pay toll fees.

The objective of the proposal was to help the Central Highlands quickly get rid of its current difficulties and embark on the path the sustainable development.

However, in its reply, the Ministry of Transport said the National Assembly had no plans to allow the Government to sell new bonds to raise money.

* The portion of the Ho Chi Minh Highway running through the Central Highlands was completed 18 months ahead of time. This was a great effort, don't you think?

I think, the merits should go to various parties, including the Ministry of Transport, the five provincial People's Committees, the HCM Project Steering Committee, the contractors and others.

The early completion of National Road 14 has great significance for the Central Highlands's socio economic development. It is a significant present for the coming congresses of local Party Committees and the 12th National Party Congress.-VNA