Food retail regulation overturned

September 3, 2009
A fresh fish stall at a traditional market in Ho Chi Minh City

A Ho Chi Minh City regulation requiring meat, seafood and vegetables to be sold at “convenient and civilized shops” has been overturned by the Justice Ministry for its lack of clarity.

Decision 64, aiming to have all food sold at modern and clean markets, supermarkets and trade centers, became effective August 10.

But on Monday, the ministry’s Department for Testing Legal Documents ruled that the regulation’s terminology was too unclear to be enforced.

The department said such a vague use of the term “convenient and civilized” would cause misunderstandings.

Earlier, the city Department of Investment and Planning had sent a note to the city People’s Committee, saying the decision would confuse authorities charged with issuing retail licenses because it would be too difficult to identify which shops were “civilized and convenient.”

The Department for Testing Legal Documents also said the regulation would be hard to enforce outside the city center as it implied the banning of selling food out of home-based shops and sidewalk stands.

Hundreds of thousands of such vendors provide 15 percent of the city’s food, according to the department.

“The decision is not realistic and hampers many people’s freedom to trade,” said the department in a statement.

The HCMC People’s Committee has been asked to reconsider the decision and report any further moves to the department by the end of this month.

Dang Van Khoa, a deputy at the city People’s Council, which acts as a municipal legislature, said such a highly influential decision should have been made with greater care and consideration.

Khoa said a source from the city Justice Department told him that the decision had not been approved by authorities all over the city.

However, Dinh Thi My Loan, general secretary of Vietnam Retailers Association, said the decision was necessary, as the retail system in Vietnam was too small to meet the demand. But Loan also said the decision should have been prepared more carefully.

Reported by Thanh Nien staff

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