Saigon puts a price on sidewalks as cleanup campaign peters out

By Huu Nguyen   June 6, 2017 | 03:37 pm GMT+7

The transport department has proposed higher fees for businesses that wish to use the city's sidewalks ‘to serve demand’.

Ho Chi Minh City’s transport department has proposed hikes to fees for those wishing to use the city's sidewalks for commercial purposes amid questions about its sidewalk campaign losing steam.

The proposal sets the rent for sidewalk businesses from VND20,000 (nearly $1) a square meter a month in the most remote districts to VND100,000 in downtown District 1.

Car parking fees have been proposed at VND20,000-25,000 during the day and VND40,000-50,000 at night.

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Cars parked on a street in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress

The department said the city currently allows sidewalks and roadways along 345 streets to be rented out to businesses and as parking lots.

But it said the monthly charge of VND12,000 per square meter for businesses and VND5,000 for a parking spot is too low and no longer suitable.

The new fees will help serve demand while increasing income to the city, enhancing management and “giving the city a tidy face”, it said in a plan submitted to the city's government.

The plan reportedly did not mention the cleanup campaign, which started with big promises of turning the city's downtown area into a "Little Singapore" while handing the sidewalks back to pedestrians.

District 1 authorities started the sidewalk campaign early in February. They put up barriers and deployed police to stop motorbikes from driving on the sidewalks. They have also towed vehicles, including government and foreign diplomatic cars, and destroyed any invasive constructions that spilled out onto the street, some of which belonged to five-star hotels.

The project has been widely applauded by locals, but it has also raised concerns for being too extreme. Street vendors across the city are possibly the unhappiest. Some baguette vendors could be seen crying and yelling when the police seized their shops on wheels, while others have scaled down from a pushcart to a basket so they can make a quick escape.

Yet inspection teams have been absent from the sidewalks since early April, which has raised questions from the public about the officials' motives and left street vendors even more uncertain about their future.

District 1 officials have said they need a pause to review the efforts.

Amid this impasse, restaurants and cars have slowly been returning to the sidewalks.