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March 28, 2009

Vietnam posts lowest Q1 growth in decade
Vietnam's first-quarter growth fell to its lowest level in a decade, government figures showed Friday, in what officials said was still a relatively good performance during a global crisis, reported AFP.

The 3.1 percent first-quarter growth is the lowest level since the 3.8 percent recorded in 1999, said Bui Ba Cuong, head of the General Statistics Office's (GSO) department of national accounts.

The GSO forecast full-year growth of 4.8-5.6 percent and said the government's target of 6.5 percent expansion this year looks unattainable. "I don't think we can reach the target set by the National Assembly, given the current situation," Cuong said.

The Assembly, the communist country's legislature, is to meet in May and only then will a possible adjustment to the growth target be made, Cuong added.

Vietnam reported 7.4 percent gross domestic product growth in the first quarter of last year and on Friday slightly revised downward the full-year 2008 growth figure to 6.18 percent, its lowest level in almost a decade.

"Entering 2009, the country's socio-economy continues to suffer from the consequences of the global economic crisis and the recession of several major economies," a GSO report said, describing growth for the first three months as "very low" compared with that in recent years.

"But in the context of the global economic crisis and most world economies... suffering from strong downturn, such a growth reached by our economy showed a big effort," the GSO said. In its unusually-detailed report, the GSO said pledges of foreign direct investment were down by more than 40 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, to six billion dollars.

Tourist numbers fell by more than 16 percent to 999,000, it added. "Due to the impact of the global economic recession, domestic production... has been reduced, leading to unemployment in several enterprises, especially in the foreign-invested sector," the GSO said.

It forecast an unemployment rate of 7.7 percent this year, against the 4.65 percent it estimated for the country's industrialised urban areas last year. The report projected full-year exports of between $56 and 58 billion in value and imports in the range of $63 to 65 billion.

This compares with last year's record trade deficit, which GSO Friday said stood at $18 billion. It had previously put the estimate at 17 billion dollars. The GSO noted that inflation, which hit record levels last year, has been restrained and said the country has several factors working in its favour.

"Vietnam is still considered an attractive investment market, while the government has issued several flexible measures to deal with the unexpected economic upheavals," it said.


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