Experts question plan to merge HCMC districts, create smart city

By Huu Cong   October 7, 2020 | 12:06 am PT
Experts question plan to merge HCMC districts, create smart city
The eastern area of Ho Chi Minh City that has been slated for Thu Duc City. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.
Merging three districts to make a "city within city" could cause administrative difficulties and confuse local residents, experts said.

In a step to become a "smart city," Ho Chi Minh City is working to transform eastern districts 2, 9 and Thu Duc into an "innovative urban area," an unprecedented move in Vietnam.

Speaking at a Tuesday conference to review the project, Vo Kim Cuong, the city’s former deputy chief architect, said HCMC has yet to explain why it is truly necessary to merge those districts into one administrative unit, temporarily called "Thu Duc City."

The scientific basis for creating a 'city within a city' has yet to be forthcoming, he said.

"The plan should make clear what administrative tasks would be further streamlined by a merger, and what possible impacts would be of combining three people’s committees."

Lawyer Truong Thi Hoa, member of HCMC Bar Association, said demonstrable data is necessary to analyze the proposed project's political, infrastructure, and social security impacts.

"We can’t just merge three districts into one simply to reduce the number of administrative units. If we have this many questions about the plan, imagine how confusing it could be for local residents," she stated.

The plan to combine districts 2, 9 and Thu Duc into one "innovative urban area" was submitted in May by the municipal Home Affairs Department to the city People’s Committee.

The area has been on the anvil since 2017. City authorities had said back then it would create a bright future for both local residents and businesses.

It would encompass the hi-tech park in District 9, the university precinct in Thu Duc District and the new urban area and financial center on Thu Thiem Peninsula in District 2, propelling the city’s plan to smarten up.

The government had agreed in principle to the proposal, but requested the city consult foreign investors, including technology, finance, and real estate corporations as to the investment and infrastructure requirements regarding Thu Duc City.

Addressing the Tuesday conference, Major General Phan Anh Minh, former deputy head of the city’s Police Department, suggested the legislative National Assembly increase its authority over the "special unit of administration" since after merging, the population of Thu Duc City would exceed that of some provinces, though remainging a district-level unit.

"If the chairman of Thu Duc City and head of police wielded mere district level authority, it would be hard for them to complete their tasks," he stressed.

Speaking from experience, Minh said after the merger, the population would fluctuate rapidly, impeding community management and migration.

"In theory, a merger would allow the number of civil servants to be cut, though in reality, it would raise the administrative workload.

In response, Huynh Thanh Nhan, director of the city’s Home Affairs Department, said the next meeting of the city People’s Council, the city’s legislative arm, would focus on all issues related to Thu Duc City, including the impact on civil servants, etc.

As planned, the new city would spread over 211 square kilometers and host over a million people.

It is expected to contribute 30 percent of the city’s economic growth, or 4-5 percent of nation development.

Some experts earlier said the city would need to apply specific admnistrative and economic policies akin to Pudong in Shanghai and Gangnam in Seoul.

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