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Banks in a bind as Vietnam PM bemoans fall in lending

HO CHI MINH CITY -- Vietnam's banks are in a quandary as they face official pressure to simultaneously increase lending and scrutinize loans more closely, and with authorities cracking down on financial fraud, including a case in which prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

As reduced global demand for Vietnam's exports slows the country's economic growth, Hanoi has urged lenders to step up loans to stimulate business and hit a credit growth target of 15% in 2024. Yet credit moved in the opposite direction, shrinking 0.7% in January and February, the state bank said. This attracted the opprobrium of Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, who gathered major banks from Bac A to HDBank, led by Vietnam's richest woman, at a government hall in March.