Ho Chi Minh City , the nation's southern commercial hub, has recorded a GDP of over 340.6 trillion VND (16.2 billion USD) in the first half of 2013, a year-on-year increase of 7.9 percent.

A report by Le Hoang Quan, Chairman of the municipal People's Committee at a meeting held on June 28 to review the city's socio-economic development in the first six months of 2013, said that the city's service sector rose by 9.1 percent over last year, the agricultural sector by seven percent, and the industrial and construction sector by 6.2 percent.

The city achieved an export turnover of over 13.7 billion USD, a year-on-year increase of 6.2 percent, while its import turnover rose by 15.5 percent to 12.7 billion USD. The sharp increase in imports is due to increases in the import of materials for textile and garments, footwear, pharmaceuticals, plastics and fuel sectors, according to the report.

Total retail sales went up by 11 percent year-on-year to 288.9 trillion VND, up by 11 percent compared with the same period last year, it said.

It, however, noted that the city's economy still faced difficulties due to the global economic turmoil, large inventories and stagnant property market.

The report said the city welcomed over 1.9 million foreign visitors in the first half of the year, an increase of 5 percent compared with the first half of 2012, and the tourism sector's turnover of over 41 trillion VND (1.95 billion USD) in the same period marked a significant 30 percent year-on-year increase in value over last year. No explanation was given for the apparently disproportionate surge.

Quan said at the meeting that to reach targets set for the second half of 2013, all agencies and departments will carry out several measures mapped out by the city administration.

He said the city will continue to help businesses solve their problems through policies and incentives including exemption of some taxes and payment extensions for other taxes so as to release more capital for development.

Quan said priority will be given to farming and rural development, and to support industries, medium- and small-sized enterprises (SMEs) and enterprises using high and advanced technologies.

The city will also promote investment and exports, he said.

Quan asked State management agencies in the city to enhance dialogues with businesses, especially SMEs, in their localities. He said this will result in greater understanding of difficulties the firms are facing and help create more favourable conditions to promote production.-VNA