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Ho Chi Minh City
Wednesday, July 24, 2024

What the city is like post-Covid-19?

By Dr. Vo Dinh Tri

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The statistics released recently paint a dismal picture of HCMC’s economy in the third quarter and the first nine months of the year. However, when social distancing has been gradually eased since October 1, HCMC as one of the country’s key growth engines is poised to quickly gather pace again because it is services and trade that fuel this dynamic city.

Many metropolises worldwide have rapidly recovered their economy following social distancing time. Imagine how a spring is compressed just like when economic activities are suddenly disrupted on a large scale. According to Google Mobility Report, the quantity of people going shopping or going to work while in lockdown drastically plummeted by 80-90% compared with normal time.

When economic activities are back on track, the changes made so that one can be adaptive to the social distancing time have become now the “new normal.”

That comes in the form of the bigger numbers of businesses which have conducted digital transformation, made bigger investment in technology or prioritized their Internet trading sites. Many Saigonese are now accustomed to online shopping, and orders of food or ready-made dishes from restaurants and eateries. Lockdowns have handed over a chance of boom time to delivery apps, online shops and health-related foods.

In some cosmopolises, the real estate brokerage business can be livestreamed. It won’t be so hard for HCMC to do the same in no time, too. Normally, a tenant or a homebuyer needs to meet a realty broker in person. Today, the same tenant or homebuyer may sit in his/her living room and ask a broker to live-stream the latter’s products.

A host of financial services can be conducted online quickly and conveniently. Banking, insurance and stock brokerage services are among them. Connect to the online network and show your personal papers, and you’ll be able to do them without having to go to an office.

Appointments with doctors or online diagnoses have become rampant in the world’s cosmopolises. Using a platform, one may make an appointment with one out of a list of many physicians and be able to choose the right time.

Working from home has also changed multiple work habits of part of the labor pool. In most of these cases, their jobs can be done independently by connecting a VPN (Virtual Personal Network) to the intranet of the company or organization in question, or working on cloud services/computing. Virtual meetings have been assisted by countless apps.

In fact, these changes have appeared more vigorously in medium and large enterprises. It is because smaller ones find it hard to have sufficient financial resources for the task. Furthermore, as small businesses have fewer customers and suppliers, they do not have replacements readily available once business has been disconnected.

Retaining competitiveness

As a major economic hub of Vietnam, HCMC accommodates a huge army of migrant workers. In late 2019, the estimated actual number of people who lived, worked and studied in this city amounted to 13 million.

Like other cities in the world, the rich-poor gap in this city has been exposed so clearly during the time of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns. Poor residential quarters, slums if you will, where residents are low-income earners whose living conditions are terrible, suffered from the highest rates of infections and severe cases. Some cosmopolises—such as Amsterdam, Bristol, Chicago and Los Angeles—have made use of real-time technology which monitors groups of city-dwellers according to 15 criteria so that municipal authorities may rapidly visualize emerging problems and come up with appropriate solutions in a short time.

A large proportion of migrant workers have left HCMC for their home provinces. However, if their birthplaces cannot provide them with sufficient jobs, they may have to come back to the city because the latter has more advantages in economic development and job creation.

However, if other localities know how to efficaciously attract businesses and create jobs, they will become rivals for HCMC in luring entrepreneurs and skilled labor.

Another problem is workers’ tendency to switch jobs following the pandemic. Quite a few employees in the industries hardest hit by Covid-19 have quit their jobs, such as aviation, tourism, accommodation and restaurants. The departure leaves behind a shortage of labor, which prompts HCMC to compete head-to-head with other localities for attracting enough workers and trained personnel.

Given the expansive vaccination coverage and a lower rate of severe cases, HCMC may study experience from other parts of the world for its economic reopening. For instance, once an epicenter of Covid-19 of the globe, India has opened her door to international travelers as of October 15.

However, the recovery should be in a new form, which requires changes from both businesses and consumers. Meanwhile, the municipal authorities have to learn many lessons to adopt policies which will work better.

According to a recent report compiled by Deloitte, the trend followed by metropolises after Covid-19 is increasing a city’s green space. Livable municipalities post-Covid-19 should become “15-minute cities,” which means that all conveniences can be reached by city-dwellers within a radius defined by a 15 minutes’ walk or cycling. In such cities, the healthcare system not only treats diseases but also provides mental support; the digital transformation is carried out at a quicker pace; and AI (Artificial Intelligence) is widely applied in municipal life—in terms of operation, supervision and forecast.

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