The city's price stabilisation programme has become an effective price-regulation tool in recent years, according to Nguyen Thi Hong, deputy chairwoman of the HCM City People's Committee.

Introduced in 2002, the programme initially targeted the supply and price of essential goods during the Tet (Lunar New Year) holidays, when demand for these items usually increases by 20-40 per cent.

Encouraged by its success, the city began to implement the programme throughout the year from 2010, Hong said.

The programme has helped the city to control inflation, she said, adding that the city's Consumer Price Index in the first seven months of the year was 3.54 percent lower than the national figure, despite HCM City having the country's highest population density and consumption demand.

Another advantage of the programme has been that participating enterprises feel secure about investing in modern technology and equipment as well as in new breeds, helping reduce production costs and improve product quality.

By ensuring sufficient supply of goods of good quality at reasonable prices, the city has gradually been able to control speculation that pushed up prices, she said.

This year, the price-stabilisation programme has expanded to cover four categories – essential goods, school equipment, essential medicines and powdered milk for the elderly and children under one. Thirty-seven businesses are participating in the programme as of now, including companies in several sectors that hold a large market share and have at least 12 outlets each.

The city is now focusing on opening more outlets for price-subsidised goods in traditional markets, outlying districts and industrial parks for the benefit of low-income residents.

It has recently launched five stores selling price-subsidised goods in Can Gio district, raising the total number of stores under the programme to 3,773.

Hong said goods sold in these stores meet quality, hygiene and food-safety standards and are sold at registered prices, which are at least 10 percent lower than market prices./.