After boom years, inflation bites in Vietnam

HANOI, July 28, 2008 (AFP) – Hit with Asia’s highest inflation rate and a surprise 30 percent hike in petrol prices last week, some Vietnamese are rediscovering bicycles and the frugal lifestyle of bygone years.

Galloping consumer prices — fuelled by record global oil, food and commodity costs — have rocked many countries, but few have been hit harder than Vietnam, where inflation topped 27 percent year-on-year in July.

For many people here the surging cost of living is the first real economic setback since the communist country emerged from the lean post-war years of hyper inflation and food queues to enjoy 15 years of solid economic growth.

“Now I feel like my money is being stolen every day,” said Tran Ngoc Duong, 30, a Hanoi state employee and mother of one. “I spend about one third more than I did last year when I go shopping for my family.”

More than 90 percent of Vietnamese now worry about high food prices, according to a recent survey by market research firm Nielsen, which listed people’s other top concerns as high petrol prices and their children’s well-being.

The survey, released Friday, also found that, while people remained optimistic about the future, 60 percent said they w