Optimistic figures: do they mean anything?

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A slight increase in the consumer price index (CPI), a fall in interest rates and a sharp decrease in trade deficit combined with the anticipation of raised salaries create optimistic figures in recent reports.

But the common citizen is still laboring under the pressure of price hikes.

So what is the truth about Vietnamese economy? Is there cause for optimism or not?

According to the latest report from the Ministry of Planning and Investment, the first quarter's CPI had the lowest growth rate compared to previous years. It was up by just 0.05 percent this month from last month the lowest in the past three years.

Even though it is a sign of an economic recession from an economist's viewpoint, as people have tightened their spending, it is a good sign for officials who have struggled to curb inflation over the years.

However, consumers concerns don't lie with overall national figures.

What they care about is specific numbers that affect their daily lives, such as milk prices that have been increased continuously, by 5 to 20 percent, over the first quarter. Or, retail cooking gas prices that were raised five times within one month at the beginning of this year.

And what's more, they know they should not expect any positive effects after they are given "optimistic information," as this is followed soon after with news of plans to adjust prices.

For example, after the General Statistics Office reported the latest CPI figures on Monday, the Ministry of Health convened a meeting to prepare for an upcoming increase in medical fees for nearly 500 services.

Last weekend the Ministry of Finance also allowed fuel retail prices to be raised by VND900 per liter, meaning the most common grade in Vietnam, A92, now sells at VND23,800 per liter. The adjustment followed a government announcement that minimum wages would go up from May 1.

In a domino effect, prices of goods have gone up and transportation fees are likely to take the same route.

Some may say that the increase of several thousand dong is not to be compared with macroeconomic figures like the CPI.

However, to the common man, it is of the upmost importance. Something they have to deal with every day.

That's why taxi drivers had to compete with each other at gas stations in Ho Chi Minh City to have their vehicles filled before the prices were officially raised. That is why thousands of commuters bothered to queue up at the gas pump.

For them, several thousand dong makes a difference whether big or small.

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