Vietnam's Economic Growth Slows in First Quarter

Corporate difficulties and high interest rates have contributed to a slowdown in Vietnam's economic growth in the first quarter of the year.


Figures from the General Statistics Office show that the country's gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 4.89 percent in the three months to March from a year earlier, compared with an expansion of 5.44 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012.


"The situation shows that the economy in the second quarter and the whole of 2013 will be extremely challenging," it added.


The figures came two days after the country's central bank announced it was cutting its benchmark interest rates for the seventh time in little more than a year in an effort to boost struggling businesses.


The country repeatedly raised interest rates in 2011 to prevent the economy from overheating and to rein in double-digit inflation.


In March, Vietnamese inflation came in at its slowest rate in six months, with a rise of 6.64 percent year-on-year.


Vietnam's GDP grew 5.03 percent in 2012, the weakest pace in 13 years, according to government figures.


The government has been dealing with growing worries about bank debts, falling foreign direct investment and a string of financial scandals among state-owned firms such as shipbuilder Vinashin.


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