Inflation dominated the discussion at the two-day Government meeting in Ha Noi over the weekend, but at the press conference immediately following, the hottest topic was extra fees for vehicles in congested cities.
Minister of Transport Dinh La Thang said there would be no circulation fees for private vehicles or peak-hour fees for cars in city centres this year.
The time frame for implementing these two fees is not yet fixed, according to the minister. The proposals still await approval from the Prime Minister and the National Assembly.
"The Transport Ministry does not want to apply these two fees at the moment, given the country's credit crunch," said Thang.
The fees have caused concern among the public over the last few months, since they would require each car and motorbike owner to pay up to an extra VND20-50 million (US$950-$2,380) per year.
"The personal vehicle fee is ridiculous," said Hanoian Nguyen Quang Hung. "I have both a car and a motorbike, but I only use one at a time. I drive my car whenever I travel outside the city centre and I take my motorbike to work. If the fee is applied, I'll rent out my motorbike and just drive my car to the city centre since I'd have to pay for both vehicles anyway."
Minister Thang explained that these two fee categories were initiatives from the Government and the National Assembly, and not from his ministry.
If a private vehicle fee is applied, it will affect some 600,000 private cars and millions of motorbikes in Viet Nam's five biggest cities of Ha Noi, HCM City, Da Nang, Hai Phong and Can Tho, according to the minister.
Poor people and suburban residents would not have to pay the fee, he said.
Thang said local governments would have control over the particular character of the fees imposed. The Transport Ministry estimated that the personal vehicle charges taken from some 600,000 private cars alone could amount to VND12 trillion-15 trillion ($20 million-25 million) a year.
The implementation of the road maintenance fee would also be postponed, the minister said, though it was put in place by the Road Traffic Law that took effect in 2009. The reason for the delay is that there are still no documents providing instructions on fee implementation.
Earlier in the Government meeting, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung asked the State Bank of Viet Nam to move forward with drastic measures to keep inflation at a single-digit figure and to maintain a 6 per cent rate of economic growth.
Maintaining economic growth at an appropriate rate would contribute to stabilising the economy and ensuring social welfare, Cabinet members said at their monthly meeting to review the country's first-quarter performance.
Concluding the meeting, PM Dung said positive signals in the country's socio-economic development showed that "we are on the right track".
He cited a gradual decline in the consumer price index, a 23.6 per cent rise in export value and the creation of 341,000 new jobs, before concluding "the target of curbing the inflation rate to a single digit is within reach".
However, the Government leader pointed out challenges and difficulties, noting a slowdown in gross domestic product (GDP) and high input costs that had badly affected the processing and manufacturing industries.
He requested that the SBV quickly clear bad debts, ensure liquidity, stabilise interest rates and deal with poorly performing banks.
At the meeting, ministries and agencies were asked to practise thrift, fight waste and raise efficiency in investment, production and business.
In addition, they were expected to review tax and fee policies and implement social welfare policies.
Solutions to traffic congestion and accidents should be implemented simultaneously and harmoniously, and information addressing these issues should be disseminated.
At the meeting, the Cabinet members discussed the master plan on economic restructuring, a draft resolution to amend the National Assembly's Resolution No 49/2010/QH12 on national key projects and programme, and the Viet Nam Science-Technology Development Strategy.
They also gave their opinions on the bill to combat terrorism and amended several articles of the Law on Science and Technology and the Law on Employment.
They heard supplementary reports on State budget fulfilment in 2011, State budget work in 2012 and State budget balance in 2010.