Understand the people's struggle first

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 A vendor sells fruits on a street in Hanoi. With the latest hikes in power and fuel prices, many people are struggling to make ends meet./PHOTO: AFP

Asked why the Ministry of Industry and Trade had allowed power prices to be increased less than three weeks after the rise in fuel prices, despite knowing that the adjustments will affect people's life and production, Minister Vu Huy Hoang said:

"To be honest, whenever the ministry considers raising the electricity prices, we are in an indescribable mood."

Hoang, who was speaking in a TV interview on August 4, did not explain "indescribable mood."

He was probably trying to say that officials faced a dilemma when making decisions on power prices. On one hand, the state monopoly Electricity of Vietnam complains of financial difficulties as input costs, including that of coal and gas, have increased since last December. On the other hand, people are suffering from the price hikes.

But, whatever the "indescribable mood" was, he said "it was impossible to not increase the price."

The minister seemed to not be aware that while he and other ministerial officials was in such a state, the constant price hikes also put people in a mood, which is not "indescribable" but "unspeakable" so bad it cannot be put into words.

On August 1, power prices went up by an average of 5 percent, making it VND1,508.85 (or 7.1 cents) per kilowatt-hour now.

On July 17, fuel prices saw a 1.9 percent increase, putting 92-RON, the most commonly used grade of gasoline here, at VND24,570 ($1.16) per liter. It was the fourth hike since the beginning of this year.

Following the hikes in power and fuel prices, infant formula prices rose for the fifth time this year.

Things have not stopped there, apparently.

On the same day Hoang was on TV, local fuel businesses complained that they were suffering losses, leading to speculation that fuel prices will be up again soon. Perhaps we will then hear about the ministry having another "indescribable mood."

"I think when people understand the situation, they will be sympathetic," Hoang said.

Dear Mr. Minister, you have forgotten the rule about giving what you want to get in return. Shouldn't you have shown your people some sympathy before asking them to give it to you?

Once you truly show your sympathy and understanding about people's situation, you can say exactly what you feel, when nodding or shaking your head to businesses' proposals for adjusting prices of essential commodities, instead of making such an inexplicable excuse like getting into an "indescribable mood."

As a minister, you are expected to make policies and strategies that prioritize the public's benefits.

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