HANOI Jan 30 Vietnam's foreign exchange
reserves may have risen to between $24 billion and $26 billion
and the economy is showing other signs of improvement, but a
still sluggish export outlook may prompt the central bank to
allow the dong currency to depreciate, economists said on
Liquidity is good, the exchange rate has been stable in the
past year and Vietnam's balance of international payments has a
surplus of $9 billion to $10 billion, said Vu Viet Ngoan,
chairman of the National Financial Supervisory Commission.
Foreign reserves have shown "a good increase", sufficient to
cover 12 weeks of imports, Ngoan, who was the chief executive
officer of Vietcombank, was quoted by the Vietnam
Economic Times newspaper on Wednesday as saying.
Vietnam's imports in 2012 rose 7.1 percent from the previous
year to $114.35 billion, government statistics show.
Based on Ngoan's comment and government data, Vietnam's
foreign reserves would be around $26 billion at the end of 2012.
Its value remains a state secret in the country.
The central bank could keep the exchange rate stable this
year but there is a possibility it would allow the dong
to weaken to support exports, said economist Nguyen
Duc Thanh, head of the Vietnam Centre for Economic Policy
Thanh estimated the country's foreign reserves at $24
billion, but gave no comparisons.
Last September state media reported the reserves at $22
billion to $23 billion, rising from $19 billion in June 2012
based on a central bank estimate.
Vietnam has projected exports would rise 10 percent this
year from 2012 to $126.1 billion, while imports would jump 19
percent to $136 billion, the Industry and Trade Ministry has
The central bank kept its official dollar/dong exchange rate
unchanged in 2012 at 20,820 dong/dollar, while the dong
gained 1.06 percent on the interbank market to 20,815 dong on
Dec. 30, 2012 from 21,035 dong/dollar a year ago.
In order to help ease pressure on the dong, the central bank
said last week it will directly import gold and trade the
precious metal with gold companies and banks.
(Reporting by Hanoi Newsroom; Editing by Kim Coghill)