As Vietnamese celebrate the lunar New Year, which they call Tet, many are cutting back on spending because of economic concerns.
Residents of northern, central and southern provinces told VOA that while the country may look like it is doing better economically, ordinary people are struggling.
Duy, a resident of Ho Chi Minh City, said the economic gap between rich and poor is large and hides the struggles many endure.
"Some are willing to spend dozens of millions dongs to buy a Yellow Mai [symbolic flower for Tet], but many have to sell every little vase of flower for a living but can’t sell one. That’s the real picture of people’s lives here," he said. "The [luxurious] images shown in state media are a fake outlook. I’ve lived here long enough to see the real face of this regime. They use those images to make people feel that our life is improving, but deep inside it’s really going down."
Tuyet, a worker at a sugar factory in Phu Yen province, said recent economic problems have not hit everyone equally.
“[As] prices for agricultural products have dropped in the past year, farmers have suffered big losses, so they don’t enjoy Tet," he said. "Government officials have more money, so they enjoy Tet. Workers like myself who earn low income don’t have money to spend for the holiday, things are scantier than previous years."
State media say Vietnam had a number of achievements in 2014, low inflation and GDP growth that exceeded targets and reached its highest level in three years. Vietnam’s economy is predicted to continue to recover in 2015.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.