Vietnam’s Bank Chief To Be Queried Over Irresponsible Comment

Nguyen Van Binh, governor of the State Bank of Vietnam, has received 361 requests from National Assembly delegates to make a formal explanation on Tuesday over a statement he made last week.

With such number of requests, Binh is the Government member having received the most questions after stating “as the governor of the State Bank of Vietnam, I could not promise anything about the handling of non-performing loans (NPL), or bad debt,” in a National Assembly (NA) meeting last week.

“This statement is inappropriate because Binh is the head of the agency advising the Government in management the banking sector. Many local voters told me that since the governor said so, he will have to reconfirm that if SBV can effectively monitor the local banking sector,” Le Viet Truong, Deputy Chairman of the Defense and Security Committee under the NA, told Tuoi Tre.

“That's a very hot issue, as a majority of voters have proposed to clarify the management responsibilities of SBV in the management of bad debt, gold, and a number of other negative incidents related to banking activities.”

Cao Tien Vi, former president of the Ho Chi Minh City Businesspeople Association, told Tuoi Tre that the economy never faces such a tough time with sky-high inflation and lending interest rates at close to 25 percent [in 2011- early 2012].


Central bank Governor Nguyen Van Binh addresses at a recent conference of banking sector in Hanoi
Photo: Tuoi Tre

There were around 100,000 local firms that officially declared bankruptcy over the past two years, accounting for about 50 percent of dissolved firms within the past 20 years, Vi said, citing a recent report from the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI).

Meanwhile, many small and weak banks, waging unfair competition by raising deposit rates when facing liquidity shortage, have finally been bailed out by joining merger and acquisitions (M&A) activities. It led to a deposit rate race in the local banking system, which heavily damaged local firms with affordable lending rates.

“As a result, I want to ask the governor if the central bank has the control over cash flow for banking acquisition activities as motioned above. Because if not, many banks, in tackling their bad debt situation, have continued pushing up interest rates, making it very difficult for businesses to access bank loans.”

“It is the consequence of the licensing of so many banks in the past, but the correcting process has been so slow. So, we also want to hear an explanation of the governor on the issue.”

Nguyen Thi Tuyet Mai in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 3 told Tuoi Tre that there are so much unofficial information around the banking M&A, most noteworthy is the cross ownership and investment, and the intricate relationship between many local banks.

“I hope the governor lets people know which banks are subject to restructuring and when the banking restructuring process finishes. People also want to know the truth behind the banking M&A stories and if those activities are legally conducted.”

Bui Tuan Nghia, production executive of HCMC Industrial Innovation Joint Stock Co, said at the enterprise level, what his firm needs the most is the clarity and transparency in the lending policies. For example, in corporate lending policy, which kind of firms can access a certain lending package and which cannot.

A bank has notified us of the lowest short-term interest rates (less than one year) and long-term interest rates are 17-18 percent and 12 percent, respectively. But it is still very hard to gain access to such a loan at those rates.

Binh earlier said SBV is working on the establishment of an asset management company to focus on debt settlement in a large-scale, especially NPLs backed by real estate assets.

According to the governor, there are a number of other support measures to deal with those bad debts. For loans secured by under-construction real estate projects which are close to completion or have been completed but not yet sold, the Government will consider buying those properties for the purpose of social security.

SBV said as of June 30, 2012, the total bad debts as reported by local credit institutions reached VND119.14 trillion (US$5.7 billion), about 4.49 percent of total outstanding loans.

However, according to an inspection of SBV, the total bad debts by that time accounted for a whooping 8.8 percent of total outstanding loans.

The governor confirmed that the bad debts have been accumulated for a long time, especially since the period of loose monetary policy dating back from April 2011 following deteriorating business environment and slow credit growth.

Bad debts of state-owned commercial banks group accounted for 44.26 percent of total loans, while NPLs of the commercial banking group made up 35.3 percent of bad debt of the system.

Bad debts are mainly concentrated in the 6 out of 21 economic sectors.

By the end of June 2012, bad debts of 6 sectors, including industrial processing and manufacturing, property and related services, transportation-warehousing; wholesale-retail, auto repair, and construction, was about VND96 trillion, accounting for more than 80 percent of the bad debt of the whole economy.

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