"We have only started to revisit Government Decree 1211/2016/UBTVQH13, which set out criteria that define the characteristics of a local government body such as land area and population size," said Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Nguyen Duy Thang.

"We understand this is a very complex issue, which requires the utmost care and great attention to detail. Factors such as geographical location, history, culture, traditions, national defense and socio-economic development must all be carefully studied and reviewed. We expect this process to take a long time and our most important objective is to maintain stability and development," Thang said.

Outside of the Ministry of of Internal Affairs' headquarters in Hanoi. According to the ministry, there are no plans to merge provinces and cities in the near future.

The ministry has started a process to gather opinions and feedback from officials at both local and central government levels. The deputy minister also said there will be numerous opportunities in the near future for people from all walks of life to join the discussion and voice their opinions.

"Once completed, the ministry is to bring the proposals to the central government for review. There is currently no deadline set," said the deputy minister.

The ministry is working on how to best organize district- and ward-level administrations in accordance with the directions given by the National Assembly and the Government Office.

There have been reports by newspapers in recent months on a series of proposals made by the Ministry of Home Affairs to start merging provinces and cities with land areas smaller than 8,000 sq. km or population lower than 900,000 for mountainous regions and 5,000 sq. km or 1.4 million for non-mountainous regions based on data gathered during the last general census in 2019 by the General Statistics Office.

Under such criteria, there are as many as ten provinces with a population size from 314,000 to 733,000 including Bac Kan, Lai Chau, Cao Bang, Kon Tum, Ninh Thuan, Dien Bien, Dak Nong, Quang Tri, Lao Cai and Hau Giang. Ten other provinces and cities were also found to have land area smaller than 5,000 sq. km.

In 1976, the country had 38 provinces and cities. By the end of last year, it has 58 centrally-run provinces and five cities. National Assembly deputies have argued by merging smaller provinces and cities, Vietnam may be able to save billions of VND in administrative costs.

Source: VNA