Ho Chi Minh City restarts bus advertisement plan

By Mai Vong - Dinh Muoi, Thanh Nien News

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A bus with an ad in Quy Nhon Town in the central province of Binh Dinh. File photo A bus with an ad in Quy Nhon Town in the central province of Binh Dinh. File photo

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After being delayed for more than two years, a pilot project to allow advertising on public buses is now underway in Ho Chi Minh City, where it had been banned for many years.
Duong Hong Thanh, vice director of HCMC Department of Transport, told a meeting last week that 156 buses on 10 routes will take part in the one-year project that is now awaiting approval from the municipal People’s Committee.
After that, the department will ask for the municipal authorities’ permission to launch a full-scale project, Thanh said.
Under the new project, which was designed to bring in more revenue for bus operators, companies will bid on rights to advertise on buses, Thanh said.
The official, however, did not reveal estimated revenues that the city will be able to earn from the advertisements.
HCMC authorities began prohibiting advertising on public vehicles in 2002, saying that billboards would mar the city's looks and distract drivers.
It had been the only city in Vietnam to apply such prohibition until it lifted the ban in late 2011.
At that time, city authorities ordered Hanoi-based construction joint stock company Vision and the HCMC’s Public Transport Management Center to draft plans to advertise on public buses, but nothing has come of it.
In 2008, Chief of the city's Road Transport Management Division Le Trung Tinh submitted estimated that the city could have earned some VND100 billion (US$4.7 million) a year from bus ads, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reported. 
“It’s a pity that HCMC is too slow [to capitalize on the resource]. It is, however, not too late to restart the project now,” Tinh said.
In fact, for many years, economists and transport businesses have called on the city authorities to legalize bus ads. They said the activity’s revenues will help lessen the burden on the city which continues to spend more and more of its budget subsidizing local bus companies.
Official figures showed that the city’s subsidy for public buses increased from over VND570 billion ($26.8 million) in 2008 to nearly VND1.4 trillion ($65.86 million) in 2013.

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