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Lack of public input takes its toll on Ha Noi's urban development

Update: July, 09/2015 - 10:32

Professor Nguyen Xuan Mai, an urban sociology expert, spoke to the Hai quan (Customs) newspaper about the importance of consulting the public on urban management and planning.

In your opinion, what are the weaknesses in Ha Noi's work of urban management and planning?

I think people have talked quite a lot about urban management and planning in our capital city. City authorities have adopted a series of measures, but some problems remain, including a lack of employment, transport congestion, a clean water shortage, environmental pollution and others.

However, in my opinion, there are three main factors.

First, in the recent past, the city developed very quickly, with rapid population growth and mass migration from rural areas to the city. During this time its technical, social and economic infrastructure was overused.

Second, no one studied urban planning in preparation for industrialisation. As a result, the city failed to predict the socio-economic changes that would occur, or what resources would be needed in the future.

And finally, it had to do with weak policy implementation. Urban managers had a tendency to focus more on economic interests than social interests. That was why many projects encroached on the construction height limit policy in certain areas in the inner city.

Could you please elaborate on what you've just mentioned above?

At present, Ha Noi's technical infrastructure and urban development have not received due attention. Urban managers didn't focus on social benefits when planning the city. For example, early childhood education is considered the foundation for a child to develop. Yet, in the capital city, there is a big shortage of kindergartens and day-care centres for children under 6, not to mention playgrounds for them. On the other hand, large areas were reserved for hotels and businesses.

Ha Noi's delay in land clearance for public transport projects has increased the amount of funds needed to invest in them, hurting the national economy and society in general.

In my opinion, the biggest reason is that the land price applied for land clearance is about a third or fourth of the market price.

Or, more recently, felling trees in the city without consulting the public angered many Hanoians.

The 2013 Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI) showed that Ha Noi had received a low ranking in corruption control among city officials and public servants. This is an indication of the overwhelming focus on certain groups and individuals' interests in urban management activities, particularly in public projects. This has seriously affected project quality.

In your opinion, what changes should be made to Ha Noi's urban management?

Ha Noi authorities should pay more attention to sustainable and green growth.

Modern management must be based on science and practicality, not on the will of people sitting in air-conditioned offices. It's more important that when making any decisions, people with power put the interests of the general public before their own. Last but not least, they should practise active listening, particularly listening to what the people want before making any important decisions. — VNS

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