Top Story of the Week: US seeks opportunities in Lower Mekong
The economy of Laos is forecast to expand by 7.8 percent to 8 percent in 2012, as resource-based industries, manufacturing and services continue to generate robust growth, according to a key Asian Development Bank (ADB) report.
ADB officials officially unveiled the Asian Development Outlook for 2012 at the ADB office in Vientiane yesterday.
Weak global demand will weigh on developing economies in Asia in 2012 but growth rates in most economies are expected to remain robust and should rise again in 2013, with private consumption expected to fuel future growth, according to ADB's flagship annual economic publication.
China and Indonesia should push for balanced, rapid growth of bilateral trade and make agriculture, forestry and fishery new highlights of cooperation, Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu said on Monday. Hui made the remarks when meeting with Indonesian Coordinating Minister for economy Hatta Rajasa.
Laos and China's Yunnan province have agreed to encourage trade and investment in the region, aiming for a two-way trade value of US$300 million this year.
Governor of Yunnan province Li Jiheng spoke in support of this goal at a trade and investment conference held in Vientiane last week, which was also attended by Deputy Prime Minister Somsavat Lengsavad.
The meeting brought together businesspeople from both countries to network and discuss the expansion of their business cooperation.
Cross-border trade between Thailand and the Lao PDR at Nong Khai’s Friendship Bridge border customs house in this northeastern province in the first quarter of the current fiscal year grew by nearly Bt13.9 billion (about US$463 million), according a senior customs officer.
Padermdej Mangkang, Nong Khai’s acting customs chief, said Friday that the value of trade along the Mekong River in Nong Khai reached some 13.87 billion (some $462.5 million).
Vietnam Gold Investment and Trading Co Ltd officially opened an import-export branch in Vientiane to provide advanced and professional gold trading products and services in Lao.
An official from the Bank of the Lao PDR, Mr Oth Phonhxiengdy, said “The company's services will provide a new choice for Lao businesses and people. It is the first Vietnamese company to obtain a license from the central bank for the import and export of precious metals.”US seeks opportunities in Lower Mekong, The Nation, Mar. 26
The US is keen to participate in the development of the Lower Mekong sub-region and plans to familiarise American companies with the area to pave the way for participation in future projects, said Robert Hormats, a senior US State Department official.
Speaking during a recent visit to Thailand, Hormats, under secretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, said there is a wide range of areas in which the US can cooperate with Lower Mekong countries, including education, the environment, power grids, smart power and connectivity. The sub-region encompasses Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Food & Agriculture
Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong has urged planning and finance officials to mobilise state resources to boost rice production as the government is concerned about food insecurity this year. Speaking at a joint meeting of planning and finance officials from around the country in Vientiane yesterday, the premier said one of the most important tasks in the next six months of this fiscal year was to boost rice and cash crop cultivation in the upcoming wet season.
Two agriculture development projects have received farm equipment to use for rice productivity improvement and food security in target provinces.
The equipment was presented on Monday by Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Mr Vilayvanh Phomkhe to project representatives, witnessed by National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute (NAFRI) Director Dr Bounthong Bouahom.
The Rice Productivity Improvement Project (RPIP) received tractors worth US$421,000 for ploughing, harvesting and planting, while the Lao Upland Food Security Improvement Project (LUFSIP) received tractors worth US$250,000.
ICTMicrosoft Helps Hmong Folks Rescue Dying Language Via Online Translator, Social Barrel, Mar. 27
You probably have never heard of the Hmong people, but the infinitely more familiar Microsoft is collaborating with a unique population of displaced Southeast Asians in the United States to help keep alive their thousand-year old language.
The Associated Press, reporting from Fresno, California where some 33,000 Hmong people currently live, today said a Hmong language translator is now online, the first step in saving the language of the Hmong who were indigenous to Laos in the old Indochina peninsula.
Laos still needs more funding to develop its road network if it is to achieve the targets set in national development plans for 2011-2015 and 2011-2020. This was the thrust of a report delivered by the Planning and Cooperation Department of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport at its national meeting yesterday. The meeting was attended by over 80 officials from Public Works and Transport offices in Vientiane and the provinces.
The World Bank yesterday committed more than 63.7 billion kip (US$8 million) to the Mekong River Commission (MRC) to promote trans-boundary management of regional river resources. MRC’s Chief Executive Officer Hans Guttman and World Bank Country Director for Southeast Asia and Mongolia Ms Annette Dixon signed the financial support agreement at the MRC’s headquarters in Vientiane yesterday. The funding will be used to increase dialogue, cooperation and understanding on integrated water resources management principles among the lower Mekong countries that are members of the MRC - Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) yesterday signed an Official Development Assistance (ODA) loan agreement with the Lao government in Vientiane.
The agreement provides a loan of up to 4.173 billion yen (US$53 million) to assist the country's Southern Region Power System Development Project.
Burma and Laos have signed a deal to build a friendship bridge spanning the Mekong River amongst a raft of measures to deepen trade and cooperation between the two nations.
Burmese President Thein Sein witnessed the deal on Thursday when he arrived in Laos capital Vientiane for a two-day visit at the bequest of his Laos counterpart Choummaly Sayasone.
Thailand and Laos have agreed to resume talks on their boundary dispute after a five-year hiatus.
Laos Deputy Foreign Minister Bounkeut Sangsomsak admitted boundary demarcation has made no progress in the past five years. However, he said legal officials from the two countries have remained in touch on the issue.
"To tackle the problems, I will propose that a ministerial level meeting be held to urge the Joint Boundary Commission to resume talks as soon as possible," said Mr Bounkeut, who was chairing the 17th Thai-Lao Joint Commission (JC) at the senior officials meeting.
Laos could join the World Trade Organization by the end of 2012 as negotiations for its membership are accelerating, said the chair of Laos' accession talks Yi Xiaozhun.
Laos' commerce minister Nam Viyaketh said it was an "ambitious goal" but "a realistic objective."
The Southeast Asian nation has just one outstanding bilateral negotiation -- with Ukraine, which Yi sees ending by mid-April.
Laos has gained the vote of the United States in support of its bid for membership in the World Trade Organisation, which represents a milestone in the country's plans for regional integration.
Lao and US officials reached an agreement to conclude bilateral negotiations on March 14. This represents official US support for Laos to become a member of the WTO, which will enable the landlocked country to more easily access global markets and attract foreign investment.
Russia has reaffirmed its intention to enhance relations with Laos as the two countries have close and similar approaches regarding issues of international significance.
Russian Ambassador to Laos Mr Oleg Kabanov confirmed that the nation intended to strengthen ties with Laos, during an exclusive interview with Vientiane Times on Thursday. The interview took place following the reelection of Mr Vladimir Putin as the President of the Russian Federation.
Laos is ending gambling in the former casino enclave of Boten on the Chinese border because of worries about crime, state media said Wednesday.
"There has been speculation over criminal activity in the gambling town, which forced the government to close the casino," the Vientiane Times reported, without saying when the business was shut. Laos plans to take greater control of security at the site and strip the Boten management of some powers, reclassifying the area as a "special economic zone," the report said.