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Vietnam economy grows by 5.18% in first half of 2014

HANOI -- Vietnam's economic growth picked up in the first half of the year, official figures showed Friday, indicating the effects of anti-Chinese riots were not as bad as feared.

Gross domestic product (GDP) expanded 5.18 percent in January-June from the same period last year, according to General Statistics Office estimates, up from 4.9 percent in the same period last year.

The central bank last week devalued the Vietnamese dong by one percent to help boost exports following unrest in May triggered by the protests.

The country was hit by deadly riots in May after China moved an oil rig into waters claimed by Vietnam, inflaming already tetchy relations between the neighbors.

However, Taiwanese and Korean businesses were hit hardest by the violence, which saw factories vandalized and set ablaze in parts of south and central Vietnam.

Hanoi has offered compensation to affected businesses by cutting tariffs and fast-tracking insurance settlements.

“The quickness with which they responded was striking,” Sudhir Shetty, a World Bank East Asia expert, told AFP, adding authorities had managed “to insulate the economic from the political.”

While the riots damaged the authoritarian country's reputation as a solid bet for foreign investors, Shetty said “in relative terms Vietnam is still pretty stable.”

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