Last update 12/14/2011 12:04:00 PM (GMT+7)

Lawmakers debate proposed tobacco prevention fund

VietNamNet Bridge – National Assembly Standing Committee members yesterday, Dec 13, weighed the pros and cons of establishing a fund to support anti-smoking efforts.

NA Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung speaks at the opening. (Source: VNA)

In the committee’s fourth meeting in the capital city yesterday, National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung said that the National Assembly had not yet come to a final decision on whether to establish the fund.

The purposes of such a fund, how it would be established, and who would oversee it, remained unclear, Hung said.

National Assembly Committee for Social Affairs chairwoman Truong Thi Mai said there remained two schools of thought about such a fund.

Supporters argued that the fund, mobilised from different sources, including smokers and tobacco importers and exporters, would help more effectively disseminate public information about the dangers of tobacco addiction and help tobacco growers shift to other crops.

Opponents, meanwhile, said it would be difficult to ensure the financial transparency of the fund.

The consensus, however, seemed to recognise the need for State budget support for tobacco prevention and control measures and for increasing the special consumption tax on tobacco, Mai said. The Committee for Social Affairs unanimously supported this position, she said.

Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien said that over 20 countries around the world had established such funds and that the World Health Organisation had lobbied the Government to create one. She suggested that the ministries of Finance, Industry and Trade oversee the fund along with the Viet Nam Tobacco Association, and recommended that the fund be mobilised from taxes on smokers and tobacco enterprises instead of from the State budget.

Hung assigned a drafting committee to flesh out the fund proposal to make it feasible and easy to apply in reality. It needed to contain such details as how to impose administrative fines on smokers and how to combat contraband tobacco.

The National Assembly might approve allocating part of the State budget toward establishing the fund, but the draft law needed to provide for principles of transparent fund management, Hung said.

National Assembly Economy and Budget Committee chairman Phung Quoc Hien said it would be difficult to manage the fund once formed.

He also said that it would be easier to simply increase the special consumption tax on tobacco from the current rate of 5 per cent to 7 per cent, allocating a portion of the funds to the Ministry of Health to deal with tobacco-related illnesses.

About 40,000 deaths per year are caused by tobacco-related illnesses in Viet Nam, according to a WHO report. The WHO forecast that by 2020 the number of deaths caused by smoking would be higher than those caused by traffic accidents or HIV/AIDS.

The National Assembly Standing Committee yesterday also reviewed the results of the second session of the 13th National Assembly and reviewed legislation passed by People’s Councils and People’s Committees around the country.

A report on the 13th National Assembly found that lawmakers had improved their preparation work and knowledge gathering but also found shortcomings, particularly in question-and-answer sessions for Government members, where some queries and replies had fallen short of getting to the heart of issues or presenting solutions.

Mai cited responses to lawmaker queries by Minister of Finance Vuong Dinh Hue and Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang about petrol prices. She said that many National Assembly deputies were left unsatisfied with their answers.

Regarding the upcoming third sesson of the 13th National Assembly, National Assembly Office chairman Nguyen Hanh Phuc proposed a 24-day session opening on May 21, 2012. The sesssion would consider 14 proposed laws and one resolution.

Local legislation

The Committee also voiced opinions on the issuance of legal documents by People’s Councils and People’s Committees.

Chairman of NA Law Committee Phan Trung Ly said People’s Councils and People’s Committees had created changes in terms of quality when building legal documents, contributing to raising management effectiveness and efficiency in their cities and provinces.

Ly attributed the success to the promulgation of the Law on the Issuance of Legal Documents by People’s Councils and People’s Committees since 2004.

He also acknowledged limitations in the current system of legal documents issued by those offices, including an overlap in the management.

Many legal documents did not conform with existing regulations and mistakes had been made by the offices that issued them, he said.

NA chairman Hung stressed the need to supervise the implementation of legal documents by People’s Councils and People’s Committees to make sure they would not negatively impact people or enterprises.

He asked the NA Standing Committee to instruct cities and provinces to improve the quality of legal documents after the oversight on the issuance of legal documents by People’s Councils and People’s Committees was carried out.

Justice Minister Ha Hung Cuong said it was impossible to abolish documents issued by the bureaux of People’s Committees because it would make it difficult to implement legal documents.

He praised the NA Standing Committee for supervising the issuance of legal documents by People’s Councils and People’s Committees because it helped contribute to stopping the practice of ‘the will of the King yielding to the people’s customs’.

Deputy Nguyen Van Giau voiced his concerns over the absence of communal People’s Committees in the process. This had failed to reflect their power and responsibilities in the management efficiency and development of their localities, he said.

Cuong said there was an average of three law-making staff in each communal People’s Committee and about 30 per cent of them had not been trained properly.

Nearly 136,000 legal documents have been issued by People’s Councils and People’s Committees, according to a report released by the Government, cities and provinces at the central level.

VietNamNet/Viet Nam News