Vietnam’s planning minister says growth target challenging but attainable

By VnExpress   June 9, 2017 | 09:52 pm PT
Vietnam’s planning minister says growth target challenging but attainable
Construction workers ride on a motorized concrete-mixing machine vehicle as they make way to a construction site in the outskirts of Hanoi on June 9, 2017. Photo by AFP/Hoang Dinh Nam
Lawmakers continue to question if an economic expansion of 6.7 percent for the year is too ambitious.

Minister of Planning and Investor Nguyen Chi Dung has said the economic growth target of 6.7 percent for this year is a tough goal but it can still be achieved.

Addressing skeptical lawmakers in Hanoi on Friday, the minister said it's important for the Vietnamese economy to keep expanding at a fast pace, or it will fall behind regional peers.

“The target is challenging. But with the right plan at the right time, the country can hit it,” Dung said during Friday's parliamentary session.

Several legislators had pressed him on whether the target was realistic. Some questioned the government's plan to boost growth by increasing oil output.

Nguyen Tuan Anh from Binh Phuoc Province said, to keep the economy growing, local companies should be provided with the best environment in which they can thrive.

Without strong companies, economic growth will be affected and the country "will have to pump several million tons of oil more to boost GDP," he said.

This is not the first time members of the National Assembly have voiced their concern about growth.

When the legislative body started its summer session in late May, this mining-focused path was questioned. Some asked that the government choose other alternatives for growth to ensure a sustainable future.

Last week, other cabinet members confirmed that they would try to meet the annual target by tapping oil and gas reserves, after Vietnam’s economic growth in the first quarter hit three-year low at 5.1 percent.

On Friday, Minister Dung tried to remind legislators that increasing crude oil output is just a temporary solution.

"The unwavering stance of the government is that growth won't be pursued at all costs, not at the cost of stability and sustainability," he said.

Vietnam's economy is projected to expand 6.5 percent this year, the Asian Development Bank said in a report released in early April, adjusting its forecast of 6.3 percent made in September last year. The bank said growth could pick up to 6.7 percent next year.

In an interview with Bloomberg late last month, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said he is confident that Vietnam's economic growth will meet the goal of 6.7 percent, despite weak expansion in the first quarter.

“The main economic indicators in May are all very good with a strong pickup in exports, foreign investment and agriculture production, laying the ground for faster growth in the third and fourth quarters,” he said.

Last weekend, the prime minister, fresh from his visit to the U.S. to boost trade and investment, threatened to take strong actions. 

He told a cabinet meeting that officials responsible for each industry have to be tied to specific growth targets.

Phuc said those who are unable to achieve the expected goals will face punishment, allowing leeway only for natural disasters.

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