The total amount of official development assistance disbursed in 2013 reached 5.14 billion USD, 23 percent higher than the previous year.

However, more than 20.9 billion USD of ODA has not yet been disbursed, according to statistics released at a conference held on March 29 by the National Steering Committee for ODA and Preferential Loans.

The meeting, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai, who is also head of the committee, heard that around 8 billion USD of the funding must be disbursed for projects and programmes scheduled for completion in 2014.

Yet, many obstacles continue to affect the disbursement of ODA, including important policy differences on compensation, land clearance and resettlement between Vietnam and its donors.

Other difficulties include changes in zoning at the local level and a lack of counter capital due to limited state and provincial budgets.

In light of delays in ODA disbursement, Deputy PM Hai instructed all agencies and ministries to reassess projects that were not meeting specific deadlines.

Deputy Minister of Planning and Invesment Nguyen Chi Dung added to the call, saying ODA management and policies needed to be amended, while legal documents related to construction, investment, bidding and public investment needed to be revised with important additions.

Work is also needed to review the implementation of ODA projects and tackle the shortcomings of complex projects, he said, adding that extra support was needed to help project owners overcome difficulties.

The Ministry of Planning and Investment also called for oversight to ensure technical standards were being met and projects with subcontractors not meeting requirements were being put on hold.

Dung also called for increased co-ordination between the Committee and the six development banks (Asian Development Bank, World Bank, JICA, Korea Eximbank, KfW-Germany and AFD-France), with a meeting every three months to review the progress of ODA-funded projects and identify those falling behind schedule.

Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyen Ngoc Dong said the biggest obstacle had been land clearance. Because of this reason, the Ministry of Transport had not been able to implement 39 projects with a total investment fund of 17.7 billion USD, with 15.6 billion USD coming from ODA.

Japan has disbursed the most assistance with 1.7 billion USD, followed by the WB with $1.35 billion and the ADB with $1.3 billion

The conference was held as Vietnam 's officials continue to investigate the possible misuse of Japanese government aid, reported first by Japanese media. According to the report, Japan Transportation Consultants admitted to paying around 780,000 USD to win a 41 million USD railway project in Vietnam.-VNA