Significant challenges remain for the banking industry to reach the annual credit growth target this year, despite certain improvement in lending situation, State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) officials have said.

SBV Governor Nguyen Van Binh has reported to the National Assembly that lending across the nation grew 7.89 percent in the first 10 months, while the target for 2013 was 11-12 percent.

The director of the central bank's Credit Department, Nguyen Viet Manh, said that total outstanding loans reaching over 3,290 trillion VND (156.67 billion USD) at the end of August was considerable progress compared with about 3,092 trillion VND (147.24 billion USD) recorded at the end of last year.

"We have regulated money in circulation at reasonable levels, while having capital reserves prepared for lending expansion by year-end without affecting money supply plans," said Binh, adding that agricultural loans were increasing notably with a variety of preferential packages offered in this area.

The central bank estimated lending in agriculture and rural areas to have grown 15 percent this year to September, doubling the general credit growth in the economy for the period.

However, export lending expanded slowly at 3.61 percent in the first half, compared with 17.1 percent reached at the end of last year.

Manh said lenders now needed to focus finances more on prioritised sectors and continue to review customers' capacity and economic areas' recovering ability to provide them with suitable support.

They should hasten implementation of the Government's 30 trillion VND (1.43 billion USD) property bailout, while the central bank actively considered allowing banks to raise credit quotas following their proposals.

SBV Monetary Policy Department director Nguyen Thi Hong said factors long hindering credit growth still remained, including lenders' caution in the face of high bad debts, weak demand and the low capacity of businesses accessing markets. "Shortcomings have been accumulated for years and the economy is hitting snags," she said.-VNA