Vietnam will try to keep this year's growth above 5% - PM

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam will try to keep economic growth above 5% this year, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said on Tuesday, with activity resuming after a coronavirus lockdown.

FILE PHOTO: Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc attends a news conference with Nepal's Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli (not pictured) at the Government Office in Hanoi, Vietnam May 11, 2019. REUTERS/Kham

After strict restrictions from April 1-23, Vietnam started easing controls on movement late last month as infections abated. It has reported 271 cases with no deaths.

The economy grew at its slowest pace in the first quarter of this year, 3.8%, as the outbreak hit output.

“We have to focus on restarting the economy, aiming to achieve a GDP growth of above 5%, not just 2.7% as forecast by the IMF (International Monetary Fund),” Phuc said in a statement on the government website.

“We mustn’t allow the economy to grow at a slow pace,” Phuc said in a separate statement earlier on Tuesday.

“Only growth can help provide jobs, reduce poverty and ensure social security.”

Vietnam had previously set a target for 6.8% growth this year, but Phuc told the cabinet on Tuesday to consider “adjusting the 2020 targets if necessary.”

Phuc said the country needs to spend up to 700 trillion dong ($29.89 billion) from the state budget on infrastructure and development projects this year, and help local firms resume operations.

Phuc said economic recovery this year will also be backed by foreign direct investment, exports and domestic consumption.

Inflation must be kept below 4% this year as previously targeted, he added.

($1 = 23,421 dong)

Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Andrew Cawthorne