Ho Chi Minh City seeks private investment to relocate canal slums

By Duy Tran   February 1, 2018 | 05:54 pm PT
Ho Chi Minh City seeks private investment to relocate canal slums
People live in shanty houses along Xuyen Tam Canal in Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
The city wants to shift 20,000 shanty houses, but the estimated cost is almost $2 billion.

It's been almost two years since Ho Chi Minh City unveiled a plan to remove 20,000 shanty houses from along its canals, but work has stalled in the southern metropolis due to a serious lack of investment.

The city needs a further VND22 trillion ($970 million) to cover the total cost, which is estimated at VND44.1 trillion, Deputy Chairman Tran Vinh Tuyen told a conference held on Thursday to call for private investment.

“The problem has been a headache for the city for years. The city aims to resettle the 20,000 households by 2020, so we urgently need private investment,” he said.

Tran Trong Tuan, director of the city’s construction department, said the city has removed 36,000 shanty houses from along its canals over the past two decades, and most of the remaining structures now are in districts 8, 7 and Binh Thanh.

The city plans to spend VND22.4 trillion from its own budget to remove nearly 14,400 slums from along small canals that do not have high commercial value and are unattractive to investors.

The sum includes the cost to resettle those families in 52 condo projects.

It will need around VND22 trillion more from investors for the other 8,000 shanty houses.

“Investors will be permitted to use either the land along the canals or other ideal locations around the city for their businesses,” said Tuan.

HCMC's Party chief Nguyen Thien Nhan said the city will invite experts from Japan and South Korea with experience in urban refurbishment to work with the city on the project.

Slums along a dark canal in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

Slums along a dark canal in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

In November last year, HCMC started implementing a master plan to transform the southern metropolis into a "smart city" by 2020, but local residents don't seem to be too enthusiastic.

The move followed a legislative decision to give the city more decision-making power to boost its development, including authority over land management, investment and public spending.

The goal of this ambitious plan is to solve the problems currently facing the city, including rapid population growth, unsustainable economic growth, inadequate forecasting, planning and management, poor health, education and transport, pollution and weak public administration.

It will focus on creating a better living environment.

According to the plan, HCMC’s residents will gain access to low-cost power, convenient public transport, good healthcare services and schools, fresh air, clean water and diverse recreational activities, while being guaranteed a low crime rate.

The "smart city" plan will also allow the municipal government to make the best use of its resources, thereby improving the quality of services for its people and future generations.

The plan seems to be painting HCMC as some kind of utopia, but its residents are skeptical.

When the plan was first announced last November, a VnExpress poll received cynical reactions as readers  called it macroscopic and unfeasible.

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