Compiled by Le Hung Vong
The Ministry of Finance has formed three inspection groups to ensure transport prices are lowered by operators in Ha Noi, HCM City and Da Nang and the provinces of Binh Duong and Dong Nai following the huge fall in fuel prices.
The groups, comprising officials from the ministries of Finance and Transport and provincial agencies, will check some 40 transport operators.
The first group, led by Dang Ngoc Tuyen, deputy inspector at the Finance inistry, has been inspecting 20 firms in Ha Noi.
The second, headed by Phi Van Tuan, deputy head of the Taxation Bureau, will visit 16 firms in HCM City, Binh Duong and Dong Nai.
The third under Phan Thi Thu Hien, deputy head of the Department of Transportation, will inspect a number of enterprises in Da Nang.
They will report back to the Ministries of Finance and Transport, and those companies found not to have cut prices or only made "meagre" cuts will be seriously punished, according to the Finance Ministry.
The Prime Minister had ordered the inspections to bring the prices down as early as possible, especially with Tet approaching, Minister of Planning and Investment Bui Quang Vinh told the media last week.
"The decline in fuel prices will affect the inputs of energy-intensive manufacturing sectors, including the transportation service fees. We have to create favourable conditions to boost production.
"The fuel decline must result in a fall in transportation prices and [those] of related goods and services."
In a communication it sent to the Ministry of Transport and provincial authorities on January 21, the Ministry of Finance urged them to ensure transport companies compute production costs so that they can cut prices commensurate with the fall in global fuel prices.
In it, the finance ministry said a number of transport operators have not registered for lowering prices, and wanted relevant agencies to penalise them.
It also asked city and provincial authorities to instruct their transport and finance departments and tax bureaus to strengthen inspection and supervision of such registration.
In the past six months petrol prices have dropped by 39 per cent from VND25,640 per litre to VND15,670, but taxi fares fell by a mere 3-9 per cent.
Ta Long Hy, deputy general director of Vinasun taxi company, told Tuoi Tre newspaper that fares would be cut by VND1,500 per kilometre from February 2 – from VND16,500 to VND15,000, a 9 per cent reduction.
Mai Linh Taxi also announced a fare cut of VND500 from January 29.
"Taxi fares go up immediately when petrol prices increase, but they fell by just VND1,500 per kilometre against a petrol price slump of nearly 40 per cent, making customers unhappy," My Duyen, a resident of HCM City's District 7, said.
According to Minister of Transport Dinh Tien Dung, fuel prices account for 25-35 per cent of the operation costs of petrol vehicles and 35-40 per cent in case of diesel.
Tourist arrivals up 6.6%
Viet Nam received 700,692 international visitors in January, an increase of 6.6 per cent year-on-year. The number of foreign arrivals, however, was 9.7 per cent lower, according to figures released by the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism.
The number of foreign visitors coming by air accounted for 82 per cent of the total number.
The countries that accounted for the largest increases in the number of visitors were South Korea, up 41.5 per cent compared with the same period last year; Spain, up 30.6 per cent; Finland, 21.8 per cent; Singapore, 16.4 per cent; and Italy, 12.7 per cent.
The number of visitors from Hong Kong went down by 34.1 per cent, from Russia by 28.7 per cent, from mainland China by 24.7 per cent, from Thailand by 21 per cent and from the Philippines by 19.5 per cent.
In 2015 the Viet Nam Administration for Tourism (VNAT) targets from 8.3 million to 8.5 million foreign and 41 million local tourists, who are expected to spend VND270 trillion (US$12.7 billion).
The VNAT said amid the current global political upheavals and economic crisis, the country's tourism industry would have to grab whatever opportunities there are to sustain the recovery and growth.
Rubber price slump
Rubber prices have dropped to $1,500 per tonne, the lowest in 12 months, causing losses to farmers but benefiting rubber product manufacturers.
According to the Viet Nam Rubber Association, rubber prices have gone down steadily from $2,072 last January.
Viet Nam exported 1.07 million tonnes of rubber last year for $1.8 billion, a 0.2 per cent increase in volumes from 2013 but a 27.7 per cent slump in value.
China alone accounted for 43.5 per cent of Viet Nam's rubber exports last year, while Malaysia bought 19.4 per cent.
Exports to other markets like India, Germany and South Korea went down by 1-10 per cent.
With figures from the International Rubber Study Group showing that global supply exceeds demand, and prices are unlikely to recover in 2015.
The slump in prices is the major reason for farmers in Tay Ninh, Binh Phuoc, Gia Lai, and Binh Duong to chop down their rubber trees.
However, the cultivation department said most of the cut trees were old and less productive.
Its statisctics show that by the end of last year farmers have switched to other crops on some 4,000ha of rubber plantations.
By the end of 2013 Viet Nam had over 955,700ha under rubber while a Government master plan envisages only 800,000ha by 2020, it said.
The fall in prices has come as a boon to manufacturers of rubber products.
Last year local manufacturers paid $658 million for 328,000 tonnes of processed rubber they imported from South Korea, Japan, Cambodia and China for their production lines, an increase of 4.9 per cent in (rubber) volumes but a 2.4 per cent in import turnover compared with 2013.
A spokesperson for the Southern Rubber Co. Ltd. (Casumina) told Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Saigon) newspaper that the decline in fuel and rubber prices has created very favourable conditions for Vietnamese companies to boost exports. — VNS