Here's a perk of authoritarian communist rule in Vietnam: if the government wants to ease Hanoi's traffic nightmare, it can simply upend the work schedules of students, bureaucrats and even commerical employees.
But if only it were that simple.
The concept, aimed at taming traffic in the fast-growing metropolis, involves a bit of social engineering.
College and high school students; 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., younger students and state employees; 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., commerical centers and other service providers; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Or something close to that. Different outlets are reporting slightly different exact start-end times.)
Kids gripe that they don't leave school until after sundown. Parents who ferry children to and from school have incompatible schedules. And, according to Than Nien, the new hours have only shifted traffic jams to different parts of the day.
Will the grand top-down traffic scheme last in Vietnam, where a growing middle class will increasingly purchase cars and motorbikes?
Vietnam's other major metropolis, Ho Chi Minh City, may be next. As VietnamNet puts it, the government will need to move cautiously there to "avoid the mess-up of the residents’ life."