Prof. Dr. Tran Ngoc Tho, Member, National Financial & Monetary Policy Advisory Council, University of Economics, Ho Chi Minh City
The city sets target to become a hub of finance and trade in the Southeast Asia by 2030, marking its leading role in Vietnam’s digital economy and society with GRDP of $13,000 per head on average.
Forty-six years – a long time for a human life but just a blink in an eye for Nhan Huynh, a Vietnamese-American, as he has witnessed an impressive change in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) since Vietnam liberated the South and reunited the nation, putting an end to the 30-year war, in 1975.
|A corner of Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: kinhtedothi|
Huynh, a businessperson usually travelling between the US and Vietnam, told Hanoitimes that HCMC, formerly known as Saigon, is his birthplace so wherever he goes, his heart still looks towards this city.
“I still remember… when the South was liberated for national reunification on April 30, 1975, local economy started to decline… many families had to eat cooked rice mixed with potatoes and cassava,” Huynh said.
Just a wink, after 46 years, the city has rapidly and strongly developed…everything has changed… people enjoy a full life with delicious foods, beautiful clothes and many other conveniences … not only me but also many Viet kieu [overseas Vietnamese people] across the world having aspired to invest in the city,” he said.
Tam Nguyen, a Vietnamese-Japanese who has been for many years doing business in HCMC, has expressed his absolute trust in the city’s development and wished to promote long-run projects in the city.
“I was not often here, I was always surprised whenever I came back HCMC, where has been developing fast and more beautiful day by day,” Tam said.
He said: “I am grateful for the city’s flexible policies in business registration, creating favorable conditions for young people to start a business, and for expatriates who wish to head to their homeland like me.”
After 46 years of the day of southern liberation for national reunification, HCMC today has risen to a modern city with many high-rise buildings and wide open roads, along with rich culture and progresses in economic growth, making a great pride for Vietnamese people, business community and Viet kieu as well.
Dr. Su Ngoc Khuong, a senior executive at Savills Vietnam, told Hanoitimes that on a 46-year journey between 1975 and 2021, HCMC has always maintained its role as a leader in promoting key economic development in the South and the whole country.
He said the city every year is in the list of localities with top GDP contribution and also the destination for billion-dollar investors and giant enterprises.
“In the period 2020-21, when the Covid-19 pandemic holds back the world’s economic growth, HCMC is still a solid fulcrum for the country’s development. And in the future, with the goal of building a knowledge-based economy with constant reform and innovation, the city is forecasted to reach further,” said Khuong.
Building a smart city is seen as a great progress of the HCMC after 46 years of liberation. After half a century of war and poverty, the southern city is urgently moving forward with huge plans of expansion and urban development, marking its determination to be one of the top cities in the world.
|The smart city will make a change in the living of local residents, helping them get access to modern services of health, food safety, environment, flood control, human resources, security, e-government and urbanism. Photo: doimoisangtao.vn|
The smart city project has been carried out in HCMC since 2018 and will be realized by 2025. It will ensure the city’s economic growth moving towards knowledge-based economy and digital economy, and effective urban governance to improve the quality of living and working environment and enhance people’s participation in management.
As planned, the smart city will benefit local residents in the fields of health, food safety, environment, flood control, human resources, security, e-government and urbanism.
Nguyen Nam Hien, Deputy General of Hung Thinh Corp, said over the past years, the management and development of the smart city project have seen many positive changes. Urban space has been expanded along with increasing number of population. “People enjoy more conveniences of a modern city.”
Hien said after more than two years of implementing the smart city project, the HCMC has remarkably changed with many advanced technologies, which brought about positive results.
“The goal of turning HCMC to be a place with modern and civilized life has gradually come true,” Hien said.
Having benefited from the smart city project, Nguyen Thi Thao, a resident in the city’s District 8, told Hanoitimes that her living standard has been significantly improved as she is part of the Fourth Industrial resolution.
“With a smartphone connected to the Internet, I can pay electricity and water bills, get information about traffic jams and floods in the city. It helps me save a lot of time,” Thao said.
People can perform administrative procedures easily in the online form. It is really convenient, fast and modern … the city people’s life has never been better than today,” she said.
The city’s economic growth basing on high-tech and services has been rapidly developed in the city for years, especially after the HCMC Economic Forum 2018 (HEF 2018) themed “Fostering Interactive and Innovative Districts: The Prominent Role of Businesses”, which introduces the construction plan of the city’s Eastern part toward a creative urban model.
With support from leading experts in the world and Vietnam as well, the city has realized its sustainable goals, creating breakthrough reforms in economic development. Of the plan, Thu Duc is seen as the cradle of the digital transformation in the city.
On December 31, 2020, Thu Duc, a creative urban area in the Eastern part of HCMC officially became a city according to a decision issued by the National Assembly Standing Committee.
Thu Duc city, under the management of HCMC, is a development model dependent on the knowledge-based economy, in which it creates a driving force for the development of economy, education and health.
There is still a very far way for Thu Duc city to realize its goals comprehensively but it has appeared some prominent areas that can be seen as images of the HCMC’s economic development in the future. One of them is Saigon Hi-Tech Park, which is expected to be a powerful tractor for high-tech industries under the knowledge-based economy. By the end of last year, about 160 project had been granted investment registration certificates in the park.
|A worker at work in Saigon High-Tech Park in HCM City. Photo: kinhtedothi|
According to Nguyen Anh Thi, Head of the Saigon High-Tech Park’s Management Board, the board has set plan to reach nearly US$11 billion of investment capital by 2025, with an export value of about $30 billion per year, marking an annual increase of 10% on average. Meanwhile, the domestic value added in gross export is expected to gain 35%.
“We expect the domestic enterprises’ production value of high-tech products in the 2020-25 period will increase by at least two times compared with previous five years,” Thi said.
The Saigon Hi-Tech Park is also the first place of Vietnam to begin researching and producing Covid-19 vaccines. The vaccine has gone through several stages of testing and got close to being used publicly. “Its pioneering in the production of vaccine has helped Vietnam to be named in the group of countries that can be self-reliant in vaccines, ensuring health security for the nation in the future,” Thi said.
The 2020-25 period is a gear-up step for the city’s development. After the successful innovation of Thu Duc city, the municipal authorities are making best efforts to support business community with many open policies to develop key and competitive products as well as creating condition for local businesses to participate in the global supply chain.
The city will apply high-tech and innovation in production, focusing on investment in finance-banking service, tourism, trade, logistics and infrastructure planning as well as encouraging the production and export of high-tech products, software and digital products.
In this period, the city aims to maintain its key role in the economy in the South and the whole country, taking the lead in innovation and building a high-quality living for local people with a gross regional domestic product (GRDP) of US$8,500 per head on average by 2025.
It is expected to become a center of economy, finance, trade, science and technology and culture in the Southeast Asia by 2030, being a leader in digital economy and society with GRDP of $13,000 per head on average.
By 2045, the city will become an attractive destination in the world and an economic and financial hub of Asia. Local people will have a high quality living standard with GRDP of $37,700 per head on average.
A street in downtown Ho Chi Minh City partially reopened to traffic after the developer of the city’s metro line No. 1 project finished removing construction barriers along a portion of the road it had occupied for the past seven years.
Commuters are allowed to travel west on Le Loi Street in District 1 between Pasteur and Nguyen Hue Streets from Thursday.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Management Authority for Urban Railways and the Shimizu – Maeda joint venture completed removing all barriers belonging to the CP1b construction package, an important part of the metro line No. 1 project.
These barriers were first erected in 2014 for the construction of the Municipal Theater Station.
The street section was handed over to the municipal Department of Construction, Department of Transport, and District 1 People’s Committee for further work.
The barriers belonging to the CP1a construction package which occupy the remaining blocked-off section of Le Loi Street are expected to be removed by the end of the year.
The CP1a package includes the section of metro line No. 1 linking the Municipal Theater Station and Ben Thanh Terminal.
|A new lighting system along a section of Le Loi Street in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, April 28, 2021. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre|
The now-cleared area also seems to have been given a fresh layer of asphalt, brand new sidewalks, and a lighting system.
“I’m very glad that the barriers have been cleared because my business has been severely affected over the past several years,” said Cao Thi Nhu, a resident on Le Loi Street.
Metro line No. 1, which runs from Ben Thanh Market in District 1 to Suoi Tien Theme Park in Thu Duc City, is 19.7km long, including 2.6km of underground railways and 17.1km of elevated railways.
|A construction worker prepares for the reopening of a section of Le Loi Street in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, April 28, 2021. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre|
The project includes three underground stations and 11 above-ground stations.
Initiated in August 2012, the metro line project was estimated to cost over VND43.7 trillion (US$1.9 billion).
About 94 percent of the work has been finished and the metro route is expected to be put into operation in 2022.
|Construction barriers are removed from Le Loi Street in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, April 28, 2021. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre|
|A section of Le Loi Street in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City is given a fresh layer of asphalt. Photo : Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre|
|A bird’s-eye view of Le Loi Street in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, April 28, 2021. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre|
A resident was booked for failing to wear a face mask while exercising at a public park in Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday.
A team of officers in Ward 9, Phu Nhuan District patrolled Gia Dinh Park on Wednesday afternoon to reinforce regulations on COVID-19 prevention and control.
A lot of people were exercising at the park at the time.
While most residents complied with regulations and wore face masks, the officers spotted five individuals who failed to follow the rules.
They were given a warning and given new face masks to put on.
“I usually don a face mask when exercising in public, but I forgot to bring it today,” said L.T.A., a 57-year-old resident from Go Vap District.
“Wearing a mask is to protect our own health and does not cause much discomfort.”
After patrolling and reminding park goers of putting on their face masks, the officers detected another maskless man and decided to book him for the violation.
|A man is booked for failure to wear a face mask while exercising at Gia Dinh Park in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City, April 28, 2021. Photo: D.T. / Tuoi Tre|
The man, 23-year-old K. who studies at a local university, said he did not have time to follow the news and was not aware that wearing face masks while exercising in public is mandatory.
Pursuant to Government Decree No. 117, K.’s violation is punishable by a fine worth VND1-3 million (US$43-130).
The People’s Committee in Ward 9 said that regular patrols will be conducted at Gia Dinh Park every morning and afternoon.
|Officers remind two people to wear face masks at Gia Dinh Park in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City, April 28, 2021. Photo: D.T. / Tuoi Tre|
On Tuesday, the administration in Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1 also booked six people for failure to wear face masks at 23/9 Park .
Vietnam has documented 2,865 COVID-19 cases as of Thursday afternoon, with 2,516 recoveries and 35 deaths, according to the Ministry of Health.
The country has gone 34 days without detecting any community transmission, but the government has urged everyone to stay on high alert as the virus is taking a toll on neighbors Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand.
Vietnamese Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long has asserted that Ho Chi Minh City must activate its COVID-19 prevention and control system at the highest level amidst rising risks.
Minister Long and Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh convened a meeting with Ho Chi Minh City authorities on Wednesday to discuss COVID-19 prevention and control measures in the current context.
During the event, Deputy PM Binh stressed that the southern metropolis had to ensure there would be no more community-based infection.
As the pandemic situation in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia has become very serious, the risk of COVID-19 spread from illegal entry is extremely high, the deputy premier continued.
He requested Ho Chi Minh City to continue considering coronavirus prevention a key mission and not to let its guard down under any circumstances.
According to Minister Long, Ho Chi Minh City must activate its COVID-19 prevention and control system at the highest level, even higher than that in border provinces.
Aside from vaccination plans, all cases of illegal entry must be handled promptly, he stated.
Local authorities have to take assertive actions to suspend unnecessary crowded events and tighten supervision at entertainment facilities, restaurants, hotels, and other venues that attract a large crowd.
The city is required to maintain its COVID-19 testing capacity at 50,000 samples per day while reviewing medical equipment, protective gear, medicine, and emergency facilities.
“Preparations for the worst-case scenario must be made, while necessary measures must be ready to quarantine any suspected COVID-19 case, trace direct contacts, and prevent the virus from spreading into the community,” the health minister elaborated.
Local authorities must make sure there are sufficient quarantine facilities and prevent viral transmission within these venues, he added.
Vietnam has documented 2,865 COVID-19 cases as of Thursday afternoon, with 2,516 recoveries and 35 deaths, according to the Ministry of Health.
The country has gone over one month without detecting any community transmission, but the government has urged everyone to stay on high alert as the virus is taking a toll on neighboring countries.
Located at the end of a series of classrooms in Thu Duc City, which is under Ho Chi Minh City, a small class named The French Bakery has become home for many poor students with a desire for a better future.
Despite its small space, the class provides poor students with a valuable opportunity to secure a high-level professional skill: how to make bread.
The class, located inside the Thu Duc College of Technology, was launched with the aim of helping needy students live by themselves after finishing the training course.
“We are happy to find that the students have a passion and gain fundamental and professional knowledge in bread making from France just after being trained here for one year and a half,” said Hardiville Thi Thuy Van, country representative from the European Institute of Cooperation and Development (IECD).
“We also found that if the students are confident in communicating with others, they can make up their minds on their own.”
Choosing to be a laborer
It was 3:00 pm, six young students were squeezing white wheat flour on a big table made of stainless steel.
They were making croissants, one of the most popular types of French bread.
They are students taking part in a training course on making bread at The French Bakery.
The class, arranged in a modest space, is divided into two separate rooms equipped with modern appliances and baking tools.
All of these descriptions do not make the class differ from others.
The characteristic that makes it special is both its students and teachers are from poor families.
While most of them were born to families with many children, some of them are orphans.
They were not able to continue studying at a junior college or university because of poverty.
Tran Duy Thanh, 19, is a newcomer who enrolled in the class about three weeks ago.
During several months before being a student, Thanh was a delivery worker for a company to earn a meager income.
Thanh’s parents got divorced when he was just three years old.
He lived with his mother until she passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack.
The teenager has been left alone since then.
“I left school after completing the tenth grade to make a living as a laborer to help my mother,” Thanh told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
“When I was younger than 18 years old, I worked as a waiter in restaurants.
“Then I became a delivery worker when I was old enough for the job.”
Thanh heard of The French Bakery from one of his acquaintances.
“Despite not having any experience in making bread before, I wanted to try and secure a stable job,” he said.
Apart from the main instructor, Quentin Phillipe, a French baking expert, there are two other lecturers, Dinh Thi Truc Uyen, 25, and Nguyen Thi Nga, 24.
The two female instructors had previously ‘graduated’ from The French Bakery.
“My family has ten members, so I had to leave school after graduating from high school to work at home to help my parents,” Uyen recounted.
“Young women in my hometown — Dak Lak Province [in the Central Highlands] — often get married and have children if they cannot access higher education levels.”
That is why Uyen was excited to enroll in The French Bakery after being informed of the training course by an acquaintance.
“I was 21 years old then and felt puzzled at that time,” remembered Uyen. “I didn’t want to get married, as it was unsuitable for me then.”
Given her own difficult financial situation in the past, Uyen hopes to help as many people as possible, especially disadvantaged young people.
“I look forward to them being able to make a difference for their own life,” said Uyen.
A stable job
According to Trinh Van, a Vietnamese citizen who lives in France and serves as the information technology project manager for The French Bakery, which is technically a vocational school, the training course is meant to change an obsolete prejudice in Vietnam that considers bread making as an unstable job.
“Here, we show the students that being a baker can help them build a good future,” said Trinh Van.
“There are students who graduated from our school working at some famous bakeries, restaurants, and hotels everywhere.”
Students from three classes have graduated from The French Bakery since its launch in 2017.
The French Bakery has successfully trained nearly 40 students while around 20 others are taking the classes.
Among the graduates are some outstanding names like Hoa, who is now working for Maison Marou Bakery in Ho Chi Minh City; Thu, who is now a key employee at Bakes Saigon; and Khuong, who got a job at Fusion Resort on Phuc Quoc Island just after graduating from the school in February.
On top of working in a professional environment, the students will also have many chances to meet with foreign chefs, to acquire more knowledge of other sectors relating to baking such as hospitality and cuisine, according to Trinh Van.
Ngo Van Hoang Khuong, 26, told Tuoi Tre he is content with his job at the moment.
As an orphan, Khuong was adopted by a Vietnamese citizen living in France.
His parents took him to The French Bakery to learn to make loaves of bread.
He has become a skillful baker after studying very hard for one year and a half in the class.
“I got up at 2:30 am every day to prepare for bread making,” Khuong recalled.
“At The French Bakery, I was not only taught skills of making bread but trained in getting daily work organized so I can handle everything quickly.”
The French Bakery is a school with a mission to train young people living in impoverished conditions in making bread.
The initiative was jointly launched by the IECD and the Thu Duc College of Technology.
School students are provided with accommodations and have tuition and food covered for the one-and-half-year course of study.