Ambitious plans to transform three districts of Hồ Chi Minh City into an “innovative urban area” have apparently gained some momentum, with Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc now endorsing the initiative. In the works since 2017, the project aims to boost the city’s long-term economic prospects and would have Districts 2, 9 and Thủ Đức merged into one administrative unit, provisionally known as the Eastern Town.
Submitted to the municipal People’s Committee by Saigon’s Home Affairs Department, the plan suffered a temporary setback when the State Ministry of Construction said that there was no precedent in Vietnam and no legal framework for the establishment of “a city inside a city”. The ministry also pointed out that there was no mention of such a project in Saigon’s most recent master plan for the years up to 2025. Now that the project has been approved by Prime Minister Phúc, however, it looks like it may actually be possible to overcome these formal obstacles.
In keeping with Saigon’s ambition of becoming a smart city in the near future, the Eastern Town will aspire to use scientific advances to solve some of Saigon’s biggest challenges such as poor public transport and housing, inadequate healthcare and inefficient public administration. As a modern and innovative hub, it will also strive to promote high technology and offer comprehensive support for both businesses and local residents. In the words of Lê Văn Thành of the HCMC Institute for Development Studies, “This will be Vietnam's Silicon Valley.”
According to the plan, the hub will encompass an area of over 22,000 hectares and include such high-profile areas as the high-tech park in District 9, the new financial centre in Thủ Thiêm in District 2 as well as the university area in Thủ Đức. If the plan comes to fruition, the number of districts in Hồ Chi Minh City will officially be reduced from 24 to 22.