Wall Street or Disneyland? HCMC mulls financial center themes

By Vien Thong, Phuong Anh   February 21, 2022 | 11:00 pm PT
Wall Street or Disneyland? HCMC mulls financial center themes
A bird-eye's view of HCMC's District 1. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
Two different main themes have been presented for an international financial center in HCMC: one a traditional Wall-Street-like concept; and the other, a Disneyland.

There are investors who are ready to invest at least $6 billion in the new financial center and they want a Disneyland there, Jonathan Hanh Nguyen, chairman of the Imex Pan Pacific Group (IPPG) said at a forum last week.

The center should be "non-traditional", which means it should include all the business features of the financial centers like New York and Hong Kong as well as the entertainment services of Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands, he added.

HCMC Chairman Nguyen Thanh Phong in August last year proposed that HCMC be turned into a world financial hub, using its infrastructure, economic growth and investment environment.

The government should consider this goal "a critical mission and an important national strategy, to be included in the socio-economic development strategy for 2021-2030, with vision until 2045," he said in a document submitted to the government.

IPPG, the company that has brought popular international brands like Calvin Klein and Domino’s Pizza into Vietnam, has also proposed a large casino where sports betting will be allowed. Other features include duty-free shopping areas and entertainment zones.

To fully establish such a center, investors need to commit at least $10 billion for the project.

IPPG’s proposal seems to be in stark contrast with the one that Fulbright University Vietnam submitted to HCMC at the end of last year, two years after authorities had requested its advice.

The university proposal focuses on making the center a hub for all existing financial services under three main groups: banking, securities and insurance.

Mentioning nothing about entertainment services, the proposal says HCMC’s financial center needs to focus on developing a digital banking system to integrate with international networks.

This will lead to the trade development of currencies, stocks, bonds and derivatives, as well as the growth of startups.

The university has also proposed that the center be directly developed starting in 2031 so that the city has nearly a decade to research and issue new and unprecedented policies that would deepen international integration.

The IPPG proposal, meanwhile, envisages the center being built from 2023 to 2030, giving the city three years to formulate special policies and attract investors.

Economist Can Van Luc said people are having several different ideas about what the financial center should be like, and the city should decide quickly on what direction it wants to take to begin development.

In 2019, HCMC announced a plan to build a VND4.9 trillion ($210 million) financial, banking and trade center in Thu Thiem New Urban Area.

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