Improving business climate and national competitive edge is an urgent and key task, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told a monthly’s government meeting in Hanoi on March 2.

Ministries, agencies and localities should do this job frequently and continually, he said.

Reflecting on the January – February socio-economic performance, it was reported that the total retail value and agricultural production were on the rise while industrial production and exports-imports experienced slight month-on-month decreases due to the nine-day Lunar New Year holiday.

Positive signals were seen in the attraction of official development assistance and foreign direct investment, and tourism sector as well.

Social welfare continued to be made available to the poor, ethnic minorities and ex-revolutionaries nationwide.

However, Cabinet members also admitted higher incidence of traffic accidents, especially before and after the holiday, and challenges still faced by enterprises.

They proposed a number of initiatives to accelerate the pace of equitising State-owned enterprises, rally domestic and foreign resources for socio-economic infrastructures, as well as fix laws and mechanisms, towards a fair, transparent and favourable business environment.

Several measures target the increased adoption of technological advances in production and trading, the expansion of consumption markets of agro-fisheries, among others.

Concluding the meeting, the PM conceded that the overhaul of administrative procedures and business climate is on the way, but at a slow pace, while the rate of traffic accidents and crimes remain high.

He also called for less-useful festivals and superstitious practices to be removed, considering that Vietnam records 7,000 – 8,000 festivals.

The PM made it clear that the emphasis must be put on clearing business constraints, including taxation, land use, customs, social insurance, and electricity access.

At the same time, it is a must to stabilise the macro-economy, exchange rates, and lower lending rates, he said, adding that a crackdown on smuggling and counterfeits and faster progress of constructing key buildings is also a need.

On the economic restructuring, underperforming State-owned enterprises, banks and credit institutions continue to undergo shake-ups, so as to ensure that the rate of non-performing loans will be brought down to below 3 percent this year.

Ministries, agencies and localities were tasked with aligning regulations with the socialist-oriented economy which is expected to be open, transparent and fair.

The socialist orientations require a sound use of tools and policies and fair allocation of resources to bring about social and cultural well-being to all citizens. Take the prices of oil and gas, electricity, coal, health care and education services for example, which he said, should be calculated on a rational basis.

About the social issues, he demanded better health care for the public by embracing state-of-the-art medical technologies, addressing hospital overcrowding, and facilitating use of health insurance by the whole population.

The government leader also took the occasion to urge the consolidation of national defence-security capability, social security and order, and faster international integration, with the negotiations on myriad free trade agreements.

Participants also gave their feedback on draft laws on fees and hydrometeorology.-VNA