Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang fielded a number of questions ranging from crackdowns on counterfeit and contraband goods to bringing electricity to rural and island areas during a National Assembly question-and-answer session in Hanoi on June 12.

He admitted that existing penalties on trading fake and smuggled merchandise are not stringent enough, resulting in repeat offences. To remedy this, there should be stricter punishments as a deterrent to would-be offenders.

As of the first quarter of 2015, over 200,000 business households had signed commitments against the stockpile and trade of imitation and contraband items, nearly 10 percent of which paid administrative fines for their violations.

A contingent of qualified officials is also needed to address the problem, he said.

The minister also expressed concern over the prevalence of goods disguised as high-quality and made-in-Vietnam sent to mountainous and rural areas, adding that market management units will conduct thorough checks on shipments of goods bound for these areas.

In the campaign “Vietnamese people prioritise Vietnamese goods”, over 70 percent of polled consumers said they would choose home-grown products over others if their prices and designs were similar.

In response to a question about the supply of electricity to rural and mountainous areas, Hoang said Vietnam strives to bring power to all villages and communes by 2020.

Statistically, 96 percent of communes and 97 percent of rural households have access to electricity. The remaining 500,000 households across 1,000 villages in 55 communes have yet to join the national power grid.

According to him, the power sector will take over downgraded utility stations run by cooperatives in more than 2,000 communes nationwide by 2016, with necessary steps underway to ensure smooth asset transfers.

Hoang stated that instances of power shortages will end by 2020, though the southern region is likely to suffer continued outages in 2017 and 2018 due to insufficient supply.

Regarding solutions to overcrowding in border areas, he said the ministry proposed building a transit area in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Lang Son authorities over 10 kilometres from Tan Thanh border, capable of handling over 1,000 trucks and classifying goods for customs clearance.

It also requested funding from the government for the project, he added.

At the end of the session, NA Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung asked departments and agencies to restructure the market in a way that guarantees the smooth flow of goods and the removal of unnecessary red tape.

He demanded a thorough market analysis to design different manufacturing and distribution models, such as supermarkets, transit centres, maintenance and transport assemblies, a sum-up of the campaign “Vietnamese prioritise Vietnamese goods” and brainstorming ideas to reform the support industry.

On the control of power and fuel prices, the top legislator expressed wish for a more transparent market, thereby gaining trust from the public.

Hydropower plants are also expected to run dams safely and make resettlements more convenient for residents who are displaced by site clearances.

The Chairman hoped that the minister would report completed projects at the 13th National Assembly’s 10th session.-VNA