The savings of a local woman worth 7.5 grams of gold in 1983, or around VND7 million at the current price, has vanished after a national money-changing campaign which reduced the value of her savings.
The new value of the savings became so small that it could not even cover the fee to maintain the bank account, and was automatically deleted without the depositor noticing.
This happened to Le Thi Bich Thuy, an elderly woman living in Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City. She deposited her money in the Socialist Saving Fund under the State Bank of Vietnam 31 years ago, and has never received any interest from her deposit.
In 1983, following a local movement, Thuy deposited VND270, the face value of the time, at the fund branch in Ba Chieu. At that time, she was informed that the location for payments in the State Treasury was 368 Bach Dang Street, Ward 14, Binh Thanh District.
The amount of money she deposited was the equivalent of five months' salary for a civil servant, or of affordable living for months for an extended family.
"At that time gold was priced around VND120-130 per 3.75 grams, so the money could have bought a lot of things. The daily cost of living for a family of five was only VND1-2. The salary of a ward's state worker was only VND35-45 per month, " Thuy told Tuoi Tre.
Holding the savings book in her hand, Thuy said it was carefully maintained over the years, and she did not withdraw it because she did not need the money.
According to Thuy, at that time not many people wanted to deposit money.
"Back then, the bank sent a civil servant who acted as the head of an administrative group of the local people where I lived to to ask me to join the saving campaign to support nation building," Thuy said.
Money out: nothing
On October 8, 2014, Mrs. Thuy went to the facility on Bach Dang Street, which is now the State Treasury building of Binh Thanh District, to receive her money as prescribed when she had her savings book created 31 years ago.
But an employee there said the treasury is no longer assigned to this task, and guided her to a branch of Saigonbank on Dinh Tien Hoang Street.
Though confirming that it was the former headquarters of the fund, an employee there said the Ba Chieu branch of Saigonbank had just taken over the building, while the money was transferred to a branch of the Vietnam Joint Stock Commercial Bank of Industry and Trade (VietinBank) on Phan Dang Luu Street, Binh Thanh District.
On November 4 Thuy visited the VietinBank branch to receive the money, only to have a teller inform her that she had never seen such a savings book.
Though old and yellowed, the book states clearly that her deposit was a non-term savings with profits and bonuses.
Thuy said the teller explained that in 1985 the state launched a national money-changing campaign which exchanged the old VND10, the kind of money she deposited, to new VND1. As a consequence, her VND270 savings account was reduced to VND27 in value with no interest.
“Because this rate was lower than the amount of money needed to maintain the account, the fund was deducted to zero, and my savings book is now only valuable as a souvenir,” she added.
A representative of the bank branch said it has received many cases of old depositors coming to withdraw money long after depositing it, but Thuy’case is the oldest.
The representatives also said the bank occasionally receives old savings book, but Thuy’s was the strangest.
Information on all accounts and transactions at the bank branch is stored and can be looked up on the system.
There are some cases in which depositors came back after over a decade, and though their saving accounts are still there, the amount has contracted to less than VND100,000 due to high inflation and low interest rates, which reduced the value of the money they deposited there.
"There are many original accounts that may have held a few hundred thousand dong, but after years of inflation the remaining amount was so small in value that they are abandoned,” said the representative.
In October 2010, the SBV released instructions for the payment of savings deposited by local residents from 1983 to 1985.
In the guidelines, SBV has noted that this was when the currency was changed and VND10 of the old currency was exchanged for VND1 of new currency.
However, to ensure the rights of people with savings deposits, the conversion was phased, in which deposits from June 1, 1981 to December 31, 1984 would have a rate of VND6 of old currency for VND1 of new currency. Thus, Thuy’s deposits would be VND 45, not 27 as the bank teller told her.