A granite sidewalk along Le Thanh Ton Street in District 1. Photo: Diep Duc Minh
A granite sidewalk along Le Thanh Ton Street in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1. Photo: Diep Duc Minh

A major plan to pave sidewalks in Ho Chi Minh City downtown with granite will be a waste of money, taking resources away from more pressing problems that the city should solve to attract tourists, experts have said. While many experts agree that all efforts to improve the city’s image should be encouraged, they cannot support this particular plan, which will cost nearly VND1 trillion (US$44.8 million). “Giving the city a facelift is a right move. But spending that much on sidewalks in District 1 at this point is just like a poor family buying an expensive iPhone for their child,” said architect Ngo Viet Nam Son. “HCMC is a developing city, and sidewalks will be dug up again and again to facilitate construction projects, and also when the cables are moved to underground,” he said. “It will be a waste.”

District 1 authorities announced last week that more than 130 streets will be given the granite treatment, saying the facelift will help draw more tourists. Starting next month, five main streets — Dong Khoi, Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Nguyen Thai Hoc, Phung Khac Khoan, and Cong Xa Paris — will be repaved. The private sector is expected to join the project, but the city will still have to tap its own budget for an undecided amount. Son said many cities abroad only have granite sidewalks at certain places such as busy financial and shopping areas. “District 1 should focus on repairing damaged sidewalks and only repave a few streets with high foot traffic,” he said.

Granite, though durable, is two to three times more expensive than other materials and its use should be considered carefully, he added.