The consumer price index (CPI) is expected to jump 13.9 percent year-on-year in March, the General Statistics Office reported.

Rising inflation has become a key policy concern for governments around Asia but consumer prices in Vietnam have risen faster than in neighbouring countries.

Average CPI in the first quarter rose by 12.79 percent against the same period last year, led by a 17-percent increase in food, the statistics office said.

The government will follow "a tight and prudent monetary policy" while "reducing public investment and... containing the trade deficit" to ensure social security and stable growth, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung told the National Assembly on Monday.

After months of concern from investors and economists, strong policy action began only in February when the State Bank of Vietnam announced the country's largest currency devaluation in years, a 9.3 percent adjustment whose scale surprised experts.

The government then proclaimed fighting inflation to be its number one priority, raised key interest rates and set a series of targets to help stabilise the economy.

In February authorities increased petrol prices by 18 percent while electricity prices rose 15 percent on March 1.

Economists said inflation would inevitably rise over the short-term, but they expected the government's tighter monetary policy would help to rein in prices later in the year.

The government late last year said it was aiming for seven percent inflation in 2011.

Annual growth reached 6.8 percent in 2010 and the ruling Politburo is now downplaying the need to top that figure this year. Analysts say the government is looking to balance its traditional quest for growth with economic stabilisation measures.

Vietnam's economic expansion has led to a complicated mix of challenges, including a struggling currency and a trade deficit estimated at $12.4 billion last year.

Agence France Presse - March 24, 2011