Diasporic Capital and Urban Change in Ho Chi Minh City

Authors: Hung Vo*, University of Oxford
Topics: Urban Geography, Economic Geography, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: financialization, real estate, diaspora, remittance, Vietnam, assetization
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 6:25 AM / 7:40 AM
Room: Virtual 36
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In recent years, remittances have become the cynosure for policymakers and development practitioners due to its potential to support national economic growth. The World Bank projected that remittances will soon outpace overseas aid and foreign direct investment (FDI) combined in low- and middle-income countries. Despite its purported role in economic growth, few studies have explored how remittances affect urban development. Much of the attention on urban restructuring in the financialization literature has focused on major corporations, management actors, and financial markets without much definitional specificity on capital sources. This project seeks to qualify how remittances, or what I refer to as “diasporic capital,” abet financialization via assetization in Ho Chi Minh City. This diasporic capital flow is facilitated not least through a unique financial architecture and incoherent regulatory framework distinct from FDI. Drawing from 30 interviews conducted with government stakeholders, private sector representatives, and members of the Vietnamese diaspora, this article examines the actors and processes that shape and constitute transnational capital flows and analyzes their built outcomes. I argue that inherited notions of remittances as money spurring the social reproduction of the family are outdated and do not reflect emergent forms of diasporic investments in real estate. A unique identifying feature of this research is the relatively absent role of local governments and a centralized government system creating a favorable regulatory investment for overseas investments. Within the context of growing positive attention on remittances, I conclude that it can lead to undesirable urban outcomes without adequate policy safeguards.

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