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HCMC proposal to collect road, sidewalk fees proves controversial

Ho Chi Minh City is considering a fee collection from businesses that temporarily use roads and sidewalks, but some are worried the move may legitimize intrusion of public spaces.

HCMC proposal to collect road, sidewalk fees proves controversial

At a conference Tuesday by the HCMC Fatherland Front Committee to discuss a proposal to collect temporary fees, the Department of Transport said it wanted VND50,000-350,000 (about $2 to $15) for each square meter rented, depending on the area.

Businesses would get a discounted fee at VND20,000-100,000 per square meter if rented for business purposes.

The fees are expected to amount to VND1.522 trillion ($66 million) a year. The money would go into the national budget for road maintenance.

Truong Thi Hoa, a lawyer with the HCMC Bar Association, said such a proposal would help the transport sector gain funds to maintain and upgrade urban infrastructure.

Current funds in the national budget used for road maintenance only satisfy around 40% of the actual demand.

Several roads managed by local People’s Committees are severely damaged, but there’s not enough money to repair them, leading to safety risks. The fee proposal could secure more funds for such purposes, Hoa said.

Hoang Thi Loi, deputy chairwoman of the Fatherland Front Committee of Ben Nghe Ward in District 1, agrees with the fee collection proposal, adding that the fees were low.

Renting a space of 60 square meters would only cost someone between VND1.2-3 million a month, while a parked motorbike already costs at least VND5,000, sometimes up to VND20,000, for only a few hours, she said.

“At such a price, I would also want to rent the sidewalks and roads myself as it’s so cost-efficient,” she added.

Nguyen Thi Minh Sau, an official of the Fatherland Front Committee of Ward 17 in Binh Thanh District, said 80% of respondents in a survey on the proposal said it should not be deployed yet, as the move would cause sidewalks and roads to be taken up, affecting transport demand.

Sau said that in accordance with traffic laws, sidewalks and roads are used only for traffic purposes. A fee collection scheme for their temporary usage would inadvertently encourage people to do business in public spaces, and legitimize the intrusion of roads and sidewalks.

“It would impact both transport and aesthetics. The approval of this proposal should be more carefully considered,” Sau said.

Bui Dieu Tam, an official of the Ben Nghe Ward Fatherland Front Committee, said a survey revealed that 92% of businesses on Nguyen Binh Khiem Street in the city downtown parked motorbikes on the sidewalks, taking up space and leaving none for pedestrians.

“It’s already like this without the fee collection. Once they pay authorities [for the usage of roads and sidewalks], the people will have no path left to walk on.”

Tran Quang Lam, director of the HCMC Department of Transport, said central provincial and municipal People’s Committees were allowed to regulate the temporary usage of road and sidewalk spaces for different purposes, without affecting traffic order and safety.

Lam said advice from experts and studies on road and sidewalk management models, both inside and outside of Vietnam, had been considered before the proposal was made.

“Managing sidewalks and roads are not simply about traffic, but it must also be appropriate with urban culture,” Lam said, adding that the proposal would be carefully considered to minimize its impact on traffic and people.

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