Inflation in Vietnam decelerated to its slowest rate in six months, official figures showed Saturday, as the economy struggles to shrug off the threat of stagnation. Consumer prices rose 6.64 percent year-on-year in March, the Government Statistics Office said, following a 7.02 percent increase in February. Economists say the slowdown in inflation is the result of tighter monetary policy and cooling domestic consumer demand. \"The purchasing power of the population has been exhausted,\" a senior local banker told AFP, refusing to be named. Vietnam repeatedly raised interest rates in 2011 to prevent the economy from overheating and to rein in double-digit inflation, but with the economy cooling the authorities last year resumed monetary stimulus efforts. The central bank in December cut interest rates for the sixth time since March 2012 as annual economic growth slowed to the weakest pace in 13 years, at roughly five percent for 2012. The communist nation is trying to keep inflation below 8 percent in 2013. Vietnam is also grappling with a myriad of financial woes including falling foreign direct investment and fears about toxic debts in the fragile banking system.