Positive growth was seen across the board in the first quarter of 2014, laying the foundation for the country to achieve its development goals this year, said the Director General of the General Statistics Office (GSO), Nguyen Bich Lam.

GSO statistics showed that the national economy expanded by 4.96 percent in the first three months of 2014, compared to 4.76 percent recorded in the same period last year.

Export activities were one of the bright spots in the national economic picture, earning an estimated 33.35 billion USD, up 14.1 percent year on year. At the same time, imports stood at 32.34 billion USD, up 12.4 percent.

It is noteworthy that the industrial production index (IIP) rose by 5.2 percent, higher than the figure recorded one year ago (5 percent). The number of workers employed at industrial zones nationwide as registered on March 1 increased by 4.1 percent on a yearly basis.

Meanwhile, the consumer price index in March dropped 0.44 percent from the previous month, the lowest for the same period during the past 8 years. The Director of the Pricing Department under the GSO, Nguyen Duc Thang, said the low inflation rate will allow banks to reduce interest rates, thus improving enterprises’ access to capital.

The business community also showed positive signs in the period, with increases in both the numbers of new enterprises and registered start-up capital. A total of 18,400 new businesses were established in the three-month period, with a combined registered capital of nearly 98 trillion VND, up 16.9 percent and 23.4 percent year on year, respectively. In addition, more than 4,600 companies resumed operation in the first quarter after suspending business for some time, a rise of 48.9 percent from the previous quarter.

Furthermore, another important economic index, development investment, registered a yearly increase of 3.8 percent to 214.8 trillion VND, equivalent to 28.4 percent of the national GDP. Disbursement of Official Development Assistance (ODA) capital also improved by 5 percent to an estimated 364 million USD, while 2.85 billion USD worth of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) capital was executed in the period, an increase of 5.5 percent.

In addition, a slight increase in total retail sales and services reflected rising consumption.

Amidst the positive signs, difficulties remain, hindering domestic production and business, according to Vo Chi Thanh, Vice Director of the Central Institute for Economic Management Research. He also pointed to the persistent issue of bad debt at banks, slow restructuring of State-owned enterprises and slack domestic demand.

Bui Ha, Director of the National Economic Issues under the Ministry of Planning and Investment, said to achieve the goal of 5.8 percent GDP growth this year, the ministry will ensure a close and smooth coordination between fiscal and monetary policies towards maintaining tight control of inflation and macro economic stability. At the same time, the ministry will devise more mechanisms and policies to facilitate the development of non-State enterprises.

Experts from the Ministry of Industry and Trade urged enterprises themselves to enhance their competitiveness in anticipation of free trade agreements to be signed between Vietnam and foreign partners. Other ministries and sectors asked the Ministry of Planning and Investment to accelerate the disbursement of Government bonds to shore up the macro-economy.-VNA