The Hanoi People's Committee plans to provide interest-free loans worth 475 billion VND (21.7 million USD) to domestic companies involved in a price stabilisation programme.

The ten price-stabilised commodities include rice, sugar, cooking oil, red meat, poultry, frozen seafood, fruit and vegetables, eggs, processed foods and student notebooks.

Last year, the committee offered businesses loans of a total 400 billion VND (18.3 million USD) at no interest rate if they took part in the programme, said director of the municipal Department of Industry and Trade Luu Tien Long.

The programme saw the ten essential commodities sold at 397 outlets in the city last year.

In addition to the loans, businesses also used more capital from their own budgets in an attempt to better stabilise prices, Long said. However, the city's consumer price index (CPI) last year is still high, at 9.56 percent.

Weak distribution systems and insufficient supervision resulted in distorted market prices that continue to worry consumers, he said.

Thus, the top priority this year would be given to setting measures to control prices and double the number of sale stabilisation outlets with a focus on markets, trade centres, rural areas and industrial parks.

Raising public awareness on the issue among consumers and businesses is also necessary, Long said.

Speaking during a conference held late last week, municipal People's Committee chairman Nguyen The Thao said price control activities needed to go to the root of the problem and a requirement to list sale prices must be mandatory and this, he stressed, would prevent businesses from easily selling goods at inflated prices.

Meanwhile, HCM City would also provide interest-free loans worth 660 billion VND (33 million USD) to companies selected to take part in the city’s programme to stabilise prices for essential goods throughout the year.

The city has encouraged more eligible companies, including those operating outside the city, to participate in the programme, which will focus on three groups: food and foodstuff, domestically made medicine and school supplies.

The food and foodstuff group will cover nine essential goods, including rice, sugar, cooking oil, red meat, poultry, eggs, fruit and vegetables, processed food and seafood.

The prices of commodities under the programme will be sold at 10 percent lower than normal market prices. /.