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Ho Chi Minh City grapples with street vendors in ‘sidewalk clearing’ drive

Saturday, June 17, 2017, 18:14 GMT+7

Authorities in Ho Chi Minh Minh City are facing myriad difficulties after trying to find new venues or professions for sidewalk vendors, an essential aspect of the ongoing efforts to take back the city’s public space.

A large number of people throughout Ho Chi Minh City sell food, drinks, and other items along the footpaths as a primary source of income.

Despite easy and convenient business operations for vendors and consumers, the situation often compromises public space typically reserved for pedestrians and negatively affects the urban aesthetic.

During a meeting regarding the ‘sidewalk clearing’ campaign in the southern city on Wednesday, Luu Le Bich Phuong, chairwoman of the People’s Committee in Nguyen Thai Binh Ward, District 1, considered removing activities of street vendors from local sidewalks a challenge.

A person who sells sticky rice or bread as takeaway breakfast on the sidewalk can earn around VND300,000 (US$13) to VND500,000 ($22) per morning, Phuong said.

“With an average income of VND15 million [$661] a month from just a few hours of working a day, it would be hard to convince the street sellers to find another source of living,” the official elaborated.

Job transfer assistance has not proved as effective as authorities had hoped, considering alternate professions for street vendors are relatively limited, she continued.

Even after training, street vendors are not guaranteed a job with a decent salary.

In addition, the vocational courses last from three to six months but there are no policies in place that assist vendors during the income-free period, said Phuong.

All these problems should be addressed before encouraging local sellers to give up their main source of living.

Speaking at the gathering, Chairman of District1 Tran The Thuan stated that several venues would be established for sidewalk vendors to operate, namely the future opening of two food streets on Nguyen Van Chiem Street and at Bach Tung Diep Park.

Other locations have also been suggested for the activities on Nguyen Thai Hoc, Hoang, Nguyen Trai, and Dinh Tien Hoang Streets.

The procedures to open these specialized areas, however, have been quite sluggish, Thuan said.

“We expect that the ‘food streets’ on Nguyen Van Chiem Street and at Bach Tung Diep Park will be open in July,” the official assessed.

The two locations will provide legitimate space for dozens of street sellers, Thuan continued, adding that there are still hundreds of others who need assistance.

Regarding the ‘sidewalk clearing’ drive, authorities in District 1 will shut down some makeshift markets on Ton That Dam, Nguyen Van Trang, and Co Giang Streets.

According to Nguyen Thanh Phong, chairman of the municipal People’s Committee, the efforts require focus, consistency, and coordination between competent authorities.

Phong urged District 1 to soon arrange legitimate spots for street sellers to operate in accordance with the plan.

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