Making news

High rates hurting businesses, hamper economic recovery

High interest rates have been hurting the ability of businesses to recover and invest in ramping up production capacity, said industry insiders and economists.

Economists called for the central government to take measures to bring down the rates, which have been sitting around 10% in recent months.

Tran Viet Anh, director-general of the Nam Thai Son Import/Export JSC., said a majority of businesses were not interested in fresh loans but lower rates would be a significant help as they faced lower demand and struggled to keep workers.

There are businesses with credit room but still reluctant to apply for loans due to high rates, which will contribute to higher operational costs, he added.

Even developers for social housing projects were not immune as they were forced to borrow at regular rates.

Le Huu Nghia, director of the Le Thanh Construction JSC., said many social housing projects had to borrow at 14%, roughly the same as other commercial projects. It certainly will not help bring down housing costs in the market.

Despite a directive from the State Bank of Vietnam to give preferential policies to social housing developers, commercial banks have been slow in implementing them, citing a lack of guidance from the central bank.

Nguyen Ngoc Hoa, president of the HCM City Union of Business Associations (HUBA), said as current rates sit above 10%, it's very unlikely for businesses to stay financially viable and stressed the need for measures by the central bank and the government to step in to bring it down in the next six months.

Hoa said a large portion of businesses uses their property assets as collaterals. As the property market has been hit with a cold spell, money have become difficult to come by as banks tightened their purse string.

Professor Tran Dinh Thien, former head of the Vietnam Institute of Economics, said as inflation started to pick up and numerous disruptions experienced by the domestic and the international markets, high rates have been making life difficult for businesses.

He said injecting money through public spending could be useful at a time like this but this channel has been known to be sluggish and inadequate in responding to market changes in a timely manner. Even public fund disbursements aimed at speeding up economic recovery have been slow due to a number of legal and framework barriers.

"There are always the same issues with our financial market and public investment we must address, especially with the corporate bond market and the stock market, to enhance trust and reduce risk across the banking system," Thien said.

President of the Vietnam International Arbitration Centre Vu Tien Loc said the country's long-term economic prospect depends a lot on the development of its business community. He stressed the importance of establishing a more streamlined and transparent framework for the financial market.

"Our businesses can only operate as well as the business environment allows. Improving business performance can only be done along with improving the business environment," he said.

Loc called for the removal of cumbersome and unnecessary business conditions, stronger administrative reform and shorter import/export processing./.