Local experts have recently called on the government to extend greater freedom to developers in Ho Chi Minh City and, at the same time, lend them greater support.
At a meeting last week between economists, authorities, and businesses aimed at reviewing the city's recent progress, many participants voiced concern that HCMC's recent growth has lagged behind many cities in the region.
Nguyen Xuan Thanh, deputy director of the Fulbright Economic Program, said that the service sector came to account for a greater portion of the city's economy after Vietnam joined the World Trade Organization in 2007. The membership made it easier for the city to attract foreign investors who contributed to trade, financial and telecommunication sectors.
The city, which accounted for 20 percent of the country's GDP last year, has sought to boost international trade, tourism, quality medical care and high-quality education.
Tran Dinh Thien, head of the Vietnam Institute of Economics, said HCMC has developed as a processing "factory" rather than a financial and technological hub.
Thien said that the southern hub's development has depended on capital and technological "imports" for its growth.
Economist Tran Du Lich said that local governments had planned to gear up their high-tech and mechanical industries by relying on Japanese and US investors who are looking to break into the market.
But he said the local government found it difficult as human resources have come up short. Investors like Intel have trained staff as they continue to develop factories in the country, but the firm worries it may not be able to meet its skilled labor demands once the facilities become fully functional.
The economists said that Vietnam should develop a system that will allow the city and local governments to plan and implement their own policies without seeking approval from the central government.
They added that the city should shift its focus to quality over quantity.