Vietnam orders transport firms to cut fares after gas prices hit new low

Thanh Nien News

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A gas station in Hanoi. Photo: Ngoc Thang A gas station in Hanoi. Photo: Ngoc Thang


The Ministry of Finance has ordered transport companies to adjust their fares now that gasoline prices in Vietnam have dropped to the lowest level since 2009, after four consecutive cuts in less than two months, local media reported on Friday.
The order came amid growing criticism that taxi and bus companies have refused to play fair, keeping rates almost unchanged on the heels of several reductions in pump prices. 
Following the latest cut on Thursday, the popular gasoline grade 92-RON is now sold at VND13,752, or around 60 US cents, per liter, down 16 percent from early this year. Diesel prices have gone down 20 percent. 
In response to the ministry's order, many taxi firms in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have publicly promised to make fare cuts soon.
Pham Minh Suong, a manager at Mai Linh, one of the two biggest taxi companies in Ho Chi Minh City, told news website VnExpress that new rates will take effect "in a few days."
A representative of Vinasun, the other giant taxi company, made a similar promise, saying it will announce lower fares next week.
Other members of the HCMC Taxi Association are reportedly doing the same.
Do Quoc Binh, chairman of the Hanoi Taxi Association, said its members will cut their fares by around VND300 per kilometer within the next two weeks. Fares cannot be changed immediately because meters must be reset, a process that has to be approved by authorities, he said. 
Many other transport companies, however, are apparently reluctant to reduce their prices.
Speaking to VnExpress, Thuong Thanh Hai, vice director of Ho Chi Minh City's Eastern Bus Station, where passenger buses connect the city with southeastern provinces such as Ba Ria-Vung Tau and Dong Nai, said the latest fuel price cut has not affected passenger bus services much.
The companies had already lowered their fares by 2-3 percent, after the fuel price cut early this month, Hai said.
Many transport companies do not want to cut their prices at the moment when transport demand is high, Tran Nguyen Le Van, who runs bus ticket selling website Vexere, told Thanh Nien.
Economist Ngo Tri Long blamed ineffective pricing regulations. He said businesses are required to submit every single new pricing plan to relevant agencies and wait for their approval. 
While companies are more than willing to go through all those trials and tribulations to increase prices, it is a completely different story when they are supposed to cut prices, he said.

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