Laos Update: January 10, 2018

Laos Update | January 10, 2018
Authors: Matt Solomon, Ella Duangkaew
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 
  • January 26, 2018: Laos Digital Economy Forum: The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LNCCI), and the Lao ICT Commerce Association are partnering with U.S. Embassy alumni to hold Laos’ first Digital Economy Forum. The purpose of the one-day forum is to expose government policy makers and business leaders to the opportunities the digital economy can create for Laos, explain how the digital economy can accelerate inclusive economic growth, and to facilitate discussions on how Laos can create the right policy environment to foster the growth of the digital economy. The forum will include minister-level participation- a Deputy Prime Minister or the Prime Minister himself is expected to make a keynote address- as well as panel discussions focused on issues such as electronic payment systems, e-governance, and e-commerce. The forum will be held on either January 26 and a large media presence is expected. The organizers are seeking participation and sponsorship from the U.S. private sector. Sponsorship of the forum would include participation in either Davos-style panel discussions or breakout sessions with policymakers, and an opportunity to engage with Laos’ top leadership on issues related to the digital economy. If you are interested in sponsoring and/or participating in the forum, please contact Ella Duangkaew at eduangkaew@usasean.org.
  • August 23-24, 2018: Laos Business Mission: Please save the date for the Council's annual Business Mission to Laos, taking place in Vientiane. Please contact Ella Duangkaew at eduangkaew@usasean.org with any questions. 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Laos-China Railroad to be Complete by 2021

The highly-anticipated Laos-China Railway Project, one of the largest infrastructure projects in Laos to date, is on schedule to be completed by 2021. According to the Laotian Times, the project, which began in Luang Prabang on December 25, 2016, is 16.4% complete as of January 9, 2018. The railway will connect the Mohan-Boten, or Laos-China Border, to Vientiane and will be approximately 417 kilometers long. The project is China’s largest investment in Laos, with combined investments totaling around US$5.8 billion. About 70 percent of this investment is from China, and the remaining 30 percent comes from Laos. According to the Laotian Times, $3.67 million of the $5.8 billion are ICT costs, as the Laos-China Railway Company, Lao Telecom, Lao Asia-Pacifica, and Huawei are partnering to provide internet and mobile phone services from the Mohan-Boten border gate in Northern Laos to Vientiane.

The Laos-China railway will be the only other railroad in Laos besides a short branch of a Thai railroad that crosses the Mekong River from Nonghai to Thanaleng. In fact, the Laos-China railway will merge with the Laos-Thailand railway (which began construction recently on December 21, 2017, according to Reuters) at this point, and extend to Bangkok to form the Thailand-China railway going through Laos (for more information on this, see our past Laos Update here). Thus, the project will vastly improve the transportation infrastructure of the Lower Mekong sub region in ASEAN. This should lead to reduced transport costs, increased people-to-people visits, and increased cultural exchanges, according to the Laotian Times. railway also opens more opportunities for people to access areas in Laos that are not otherwise easily reached; the railway will have 32 stops along its 417 km route, and according to a study done by Lao authorities, the railway is expected to initially have about 3.98 million domestic passengers per year, and may increase to 8.62 million in the future. By opening up areas to a large passenger base, the railway can increase economic activity around the country, particularly in more remote areas. In addition, the railway will “land-link” Laos, a landlocked country, to China, which sees the project as an important part of the Kunming-Singapore regional railway, under the One Belt, One Road Initiative. Such improvements on transportation infrastructure, access to remote areas, and regional connectivity create a more enabling environment for businesses in Laos, which can utilize the railway for more cost-effective transportation of both people and materials across a wider area.

Laos Partners with Thailand and Myanmar to Control Air Quality

The Government of Laos is partnering with the governments of Thailand and Myanmar in an effort to address the trans-national challenge of improving air quality, by addressing cross-border smog caused by the environmentally damaging illegal forest fires and deforestation. According to the Laotian Times, in a meeting the week of December 12, the Thai Minister for Natural Resources and Environment stated that illegal brush fires in the three countries pose a threat to air quality. In these countries, the fires usually occur in the countryside as a result of the “slash and burn” method used by farmers to eliminate large acres of forest to clear land for agriculture; this form of deforestation is illegal, and causes great haze and devastation to forests, as well as air quality due to the smog from the fires. Following the Thai Minister’s statement, the meeting then called for greater cooperation between the three countries, and further discussed measures that could be taken to efficiently prevent and eliminate illegal brush fires and deforestation.

In Laos, the Pollution Control Department has put into place a forest fire prevention plan, which will closely monitor illegal forest fires and deforestation starting in February 2018. In addition, technologies from the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency are being used to predict and prevent forest fires, according to the Laotian Times. This partnership, particularly with a greater resourced country like Thailand, can provide stronger capacity for addressing this issue, which has high implications for forest sustainability, air quality, and overall citizen and environmental health in Laos. Given that these areas are essential for Laos’ continued development, it is promising that greater steps are being taken to improve upon them with this partnership.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 

Regional Affairs
Laos to Compete in 7 Skills Areas of ASEAN Skills Competition 2018
Vietnamese Companies Invest Over 5 Billion USD in Laos
Vietnam-Laos Friendship, Solidarity Year 2017 Concludes with Success
President Bounnhang Visits Vietnam to Strengthen Ties, Cooperation
China Outlines Cooperation Strategy with Lower Mekong Countries
Feasibility Study Says Laos-Vietnam Railway Doable
Vietnamese, Lao people’s courts work to step up co-operation

National Affairs
Vice President calls for reinforced governance, public administration
New Law to Ensure Fair Compensation for Relocated Populations
Laos Establishes Diplomatic Relations with 140 Countries
PM Urges Reducing Education Gap between Urban and Rural Areas
President Urges Tapping Stable Sources of Revenues
11 ADB-Funded Projects Announced as Best Project 2016
Laos Launches State of World Population 2017 Report, Linking Women’s Reproductive Rights and Elimination of Poverty
No New Year Cards Need to Be Sent on Behalf of Central Leaders, PM’s Office
Gov’t Approves Guidance on Promotion of Cooperation with China and Vietnam
Laos, Switzerland Strengthen Cooperation
Lao and RoK Central Banks Strengthen Cooperation

Customs
Laos: Requirements for Businesses Importing and Exporting Medicines and Medical Products/Devices
Sink-or-swim time for ASEAN latecomers as tariffs come down

Defense & Security
Laos Expresses Concern Over North Korea Nuclear Program

Economics
The United Kingdom: 10th Largest Investor in Laos

Energy
Laos commits to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions | Eleven Myanmar
ASU research offers hydropower dam energy solution without sacrificing Mekong food supply

Food & Agriculture
Vientiane Organic Farmers Going Strong
Japan Grants US$7.44 M to Lao PDR
Farmers Get Help Reaching Fields
Vientiane's First Fecal Sludge Treatment Plant Launches
Food prices remain stable throughout 2017
Japan funds upgrade of irrigated agriculture in Thangon
Agriculture survey to be broadened in 2019

Health & Life Sciences
Health, information authorities discuss medicinal product advertising ban
Health officials brush up on financial planning, accounting
Child health, nutrition among benefits as UNICEF allots 516 billion kip
Laos Partners with Thailand, Myanmar to Control Air Quality

ICT
Lao Youth Trained for Future ICT Policy Formulation

Infrastructure
Laos-China Railway Project 16% Complete
Lao, Chinese Investors Join Hands to Increase Steel Production
Vientiane-Vangvieng Highway, New Face of Transport System in Laos
City’s roads set for major tidy-up operation
Lao Tourism Sector in Trouble

 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Laos to Compete in 7 Skills Areas of ASEAN Skills Competition 2018 KPL: Lao News Agency 28th Dec 2017
The 12th ASEAN Skills Competition in Thailand will see 14 Lao skilled workers competing in 7 skills areas namely welding, website development, indoor installing, masonry, carpentry, tailoring and cooking. The 12th ASEAN Skills Competition will be held in Bangkok, Thailand on Aug 24-Sep 4, 2018, Deputy Director of Department of Skills Development and Employment, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Mr Khonesy Mahavong told the 3rd National Labour Skills Competition Committee Meeting in Vientiane last week. The meeting was for discussing preparations for the 12th ASEAN Skills Competition.

Vietnamese Companies Invest Over 5 Billion USD in Laos The Laotian Times 22nd Dec 2017
Vietnamese businesses have found much success in Laos primarily due to excellent commercial opportunities, market scale and operation quality in the landlocked nation. According to the Ministry of Planning and Investment, Laos has licensed 423 Vietnamese projects worth more than USD $5 billion, namely in hydropower, mining, transport, industrial tree plantations and services.

Vietnam-Laos Friendship, Solidarity Year 2017 Concludes with Success KPL: Lao News Agency 21st Dec 2017
Party Secretary General and State President Bounnhang Vorachit and Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang jointly hosted a press conference in Hanoi on Dec 20 to announce the conclusion of the Laos-Vietnam, Vietnam-Laos Friendship and Solidarity Year 2017. The year of 2017 is significant for Vietnam and Laos, as the two countries celebrate the 55th anniversary of their diplomatic relations and 40 years of the Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation, noted President Tran Dai Quang. Along with the organisation of hundreds of activities, the two sides have exchanged 300 delegations at all levels, while working together in effectively implementing signed agreements and cooperation programmes and plans, thus lifting ties to a new height, he said.

President Bounnhang Visits Vietnam to Strengthen Ties, Cooperation KPL: Lao News Agency 19th Dec 2017
Party Secretary General and State President Bounnhang Vorachit arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam, on 19th December for a three-day visit to the neibouring country at the invitation of the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong and Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang. The visit aims to promote the traditional friendship, special solidarity and comprehensive cooperation between the two countries. This is the second official friendly visit of the Lao leader during his tenure (2016-2021).

China Outlines Cooperation Strategy with Lower Mekong Countries KPL: Lao News Agency 18th Dec 2017
Chinese government has outlined a cooperation strategy under Lancang-Mekong cooperation mechanism with five lower Mekong countries for win-win situation, peace and stability in the region. This statement was made on Dec 11 in Peking, China, by Prof. Su Hao, Director of Center for Strategic and Peace Studies, China Foreign Affairs University. The policy aims to promote socio-economic development, improve living conditions of people in the member states thus driving the region toward prosperity.

Feasibility Study Says Laos-Vietnam Railway Doable The Laotian Times 11th Dec 2017
Two years ago, Lao, Vietnamese and Korean experts and officials met in the capital of Laos to commence a study on the feasibility of a proposed 555km railway that would link Vientiane, passing through Thakaek (Khammouane) to Vung Ang Port in Vietnam. Last week, that feasibility study was declared complete. The railway was announced to be a viable project, worth pursuing.

Vietnamese, Lao people’s courts work to step up co-operation vietnamnews.vn 5th Jan 2018
Chief Justice of the Supreme People’s Court of Việt Nam, Nguyễn Hòa Bình, held talks with his Lao counterpart, Khamphanxit Thidampha, in Hà Nội yesterday, during which he said the two nations’ courts, especially provincial courts, should continue exchanging delegations and organising seminars to share trial experiences. Bình highlighted the traditional co-operation between the courts of Việt Nam and Laos, including the exchange of working delegations, sharing of trial experiences and training of judges.

National Affairs

Vice President calls for reinforced governance, public administration Vientiane Times 9th Jan 2018
Vice President Phankham Viphavanh has called for the reinforcement of state governance, public administration and social management by discouraging the selfish use of authority.  Mr Phankham made the call in his address at the annual national home affairs meeting, which began yesterday and was chaired by Minister of Home Affairs Khammanh Sounvileuth. Mr Phankham praised the ministry for its reform efforts through the enactment and amendment of regulations related to governance and public administration. 

New Law to Ensure Fair Compensation for Relocated Populations The Laotian Times 3rd Jan 2018
A new law will pave the way for fairer and faster compensation payouts for landowners that lose their property to development projects, according to a policy developer. The draft law on stabilization of livelihoods will determine conditions to ensure people who lose property can enjoy better living conditions after relocation. According to the draft law, those relocated due to development projects will be fully compensated and will also be provided with new and permanent employment.

Laos Establishes Diplomatic Relations with 140 Countries KPL: Lao News Agency 2nd Jan 2018
Presently, Laos has established the diplomatic relations with 140 countries and 39 Lao embassies worldwide. The achievement was briefed at an annual meeting of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, held at the ICTC in Vientiane Capital last week, in presence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Saleumxay Kommasith, to review the implementation work over the past one year. Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Saleumxay Kommasith expressed congratulation for achievements of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs over the past one year and he called the participants to pay attention to the context of the meeting and to address the shortcomings in the materialization of external relations of 10th Party Congress.

PM Urges Reducing Education Gap between Urban and Rural Areas KPL: Lao News Agency 29th Dec 2017
Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has urged education administrators to reduce education gap between urban and rural areas. Addressing an annual nationwide meeting of education and sport administrators in Vientiane on Dec 28, 2017, Prime Minister Thongloun noted that the reduction of education gap between urban and rural area is urgently needed and must be conducted in parallel with the addressing of teacher shortage in rural and remote areas. He also said that attention must be also paid to the development of education administrators and teachers making sure they have broader knowledge of the policy of the Party and the laws of the government; and the improvement of the quality of education.

President Urges Tapping Stable Sources of Revenues KPL: Lao News Agency 28th Dec 2017
President Bounnhang Vorachit has urged the Ministry of Finance to seek stable and sustainable sources of revenues as today the sales of mineral resources and law materials, royalties from long term investment projects and foreign aid are the country’s main sources of revenues. “These cannot be stable sources of incomes for today,” said President when giving a guidance talk to a meeting on the implementation of the national socio-economic development plan and the state budget plan for 2018 in Vientiane Capital on Wednesday. President Bounnhang also urged the relevant sector to attach greater attention to the management of revenues and government spending as well as the settlement of government debts and maintain economic growth at a strong and constant pace.

11 ADB-Funded Projects Announced as Best Project 2016 KPL: Lao News Agency 20th Dec 2017
11 projects of 20 projects financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have been announced as 2016 Best Project. An award ceremony for the projects was held in Vientiane Capital on Dec 20 in the presence of Vice Minister of Planning and Investment Kikeo Chanthaboury and Country Director of ADB Laos Resident Mission Yasushi Negishi. Since 2008, the Ministry of Planning and Investment, in collaboration with other government agencies and ADB, has conducted this annual awards ceremony.

Laos Launches State of World Population 2017 Report, Linking Women’s Reproductive Rights and Elimination of Poverty KPL: Lao News Agency 20th Dec 2017
Unless inequality is urgently tackled and the poorest women empowered to make their own decisions about their lives, countries could face threats to their development goals, according to The State of World Population 2017, a report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The global report was launched in the Lao PDR today in a joint press conference held by the Ministry of Planning and Investment and UNFPA Lao PDR. The report, titled “Worlds Apart: Reproductive Health and Rights in an Age of Inequality”, highlights the costs of inequalities, including sexual and reproductive health and rights.

No New Year Cards Need to Be Sent on Behalf of Central Leaders, PM’s Office KPL: Lao News Agency 13th Dec 2017
Head of Prime Minister’s Office Phet Phomphiphack has issued an announcement dated Dec 11, 2017 saying that neither greeting cards nor New Year cards should be sent on behalf of leaders at central committee, ministerial, organizational and provincial levels to fellow leaders. The announcement states that sending such kinds of cards is only allowed if the recipients are foreigners. The move aims to materialize the policy of the Party and government on thriftiness and anti extravagance.

Gov’t Approves Guidance on Promotion of Cooperation with China and Vietnam KPL: Lao News Agency 11th Dec 2017
The monthly meeting of the government for November has witnessed the approval of guidance on the promotion of cooperation with China and Vietnam, and a report on the implementation of projects funded with grant supports and loans from the two neighbouring countries and that on Chinese investment in Laos. Held on Dec 6-7, the government’s monthly meeting also saw the approval of guidance on the materialisation of the agreements reached during the state visit by President Xi Jinping in November. Several agreements were made by the Chinese government during the state visit of President Xi Jinping.

Laos, Switzerland Strengthen Cooperation KPL: Lao News Agency 9th Dec 2017
The 2nd bilateral political consultation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Laos and Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs was held in Vientiane on Dec 7 where both sides discussed ways to enhance the relations and cooperation between the two countries over years to come. The Lao delegation was led by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sengphet Houngboungnuang while the Swiss delegation was headed by Swiss Assistant State Secretary Mr Johannes Matyassy.​ Both sides reviewed the relations and cooperation since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1957 and the results of their first meeting in September 2015.

Lao and RoK Central Banks Strengthen Cooperation KPL: Lao News Agency 7th Dec 2017
The signing of a memorandum of understanding on cooperation between the Bank of Lao PDR (BoL) and the Bank of Korea (BoK) took place in Luang Prabang Province on Dec 4. Signatories to the document were BoL Governor, Mr Somphao Phaysith and his Korean counterpart Juyeol Lee in the presence of relevant officials. The MoU aims to broaden the existing cooperation and exchanges in banking sectors of the two countries.

Customs

Laos: Requirements for Businesses Importing and Exporting Medicines and Medical Products/Devices Lexology 29th Dec 2017
The Ministry of Health in Laos has issued a Decision on the Establishment of Businesses for the Import and Export of Medicine and Medical Products No. 1820/MoH dated August 25, 2017 (the Decision), to provide information on setting up and conducting businesses related to the import and export, distribution, wholesale, and manufacture of medicines and medical products/devices.

Sink-or-swim time for ASEAN latecomers as tariffs come down Nikkei Asian Review 1st Jan 2018
Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam are no longer getting the kid-gloves treatment in the ASEAN Economic Community. As late entrants to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the four countries were initially exempted from abolishing some tariffs when the bloc established the AEC at the end of 2015. As of Monday, however, they are fully integrated members of the community -- with all that entails. Now, the AEC is expected to pursue deeper economic integration by lowering nontariff barriers and relaxing investment rules.

Defense & Security

Laos Expresses Concern Over North Korea Nuclear Program The Laotian Times 7th Dec 2017
A senior Lao diplomat has expressed grave concern over North Korea’s recent test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, and joined concerned nations in calling on Pyongyang to end its nuclear missile programs. Deputy Foreign Minister Khamphao Ernthavanh also stated that she hoped the situation on the Korean Peninsula could be resolved through peaceful negotiations. “Laos sees this as a concerning matter. We hope North Korea abandons its nuclear and missile development and that the Korean Peninsula will be denuclearized through talks as soon as possible.”

Economics

The United Kingdom: 10th Largest Investor in Laos The Laotian Times 18th Dec 2017
While Laos’ geographic neighbors China, Vietnam and Thailand dominate its top ten list of foreign investors, an unlikely contender claims the 10th spot, and it is not what one may expect: the United Kingdom. The UK has gone from being the 15th largest investor in the country several years ago, since the establishment of a UK Embassy in Vientiane, to currently the 10th largest foreign investor in Laos. Laos and the UK established diplomatic relations in 1955, but did not have physical embassies in each other’s country from the mid-1980s until they reopened their embassies in Vientiane and London in 2012 and 2013, respectively. This ended a 27-year absence of a British diplomatic presence in Laos.

Energy

Laos commits to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions | Eleven Myanmar Eleven Myanmar 13th Dec 2017
Laos is set to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions while becoming more resilient to negative impacts from climate change. In addition, the country is planning to increase its share of renewable energy to 30 percent of its consumption by 2025. To reach the goal, the country has plans to enhance public transportation and using biofuels as well as to focus on electrification of rural areas to offset energy generation from the combustion of fossil fuels. This information was revealed this week by the Lao delegation after returning from the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP23), held recently in Germany. During the conference, Lao delegation took part in negotiations on implementing the Paris Agreement and to present the country’s own implementation progress in three side events. Currently, Laos’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is negligible (1.77 tonnes of CO2 per person in 2013, compared to 8.49 tonnes in China or 11 tonnes in the host-country Germany).

ASU research offers hydropower dam energy solution without sacrificing Mekong food supply ASU Now 7th Dec 2017
The Mekong River is an economic engine for fishermen and a food source for millions of people worldwide. Nearly 100 hydropower dams are planned for construction along tributaries off the river’s 2,700-mile stretch, which flows through Burma, China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia. But while the dams are expected to provide clean energy to the region, if not managed properly, they also have the potential to offset natural river patterns, which would damage food production, supply and business. Arizona State University Professor John Sabo and collaborators have proposed a solution in the Dec. 8 issue of Science magazine that allows dam operators to generate power in ways that also protect — and possibly improve — food supplies and businesses throughout the Mekong river basin. “We have figured out the relationship between river flows and fish catch, and we have developed an algorithm for dam operators to use that will increase fish harvests and still generate power,” Sabo said. “Dams are going to be built no matter how much fuss we make; our research shows how we can be more strategic about the buildout and operations of these dams in the Mekong.” The proposed solution, the first of its kind for this problem, can be applied to other large river systems around the world facing similar tradeoffs.

Food & Agriculture

Vientiane Organic Farmers Going Strong The Laotian Times 9th Jan 2018
Organic farmers’ groups in the sleepy capital of Laos have enjoyed a constant growth over the past couple of years. According to the Vientiane Agriculture and Forestry Department, there are 41 organic farmers’ groups in Vientiane, of which 10 are organic rice growers’ groups and 17 are vegetable organic growers’ groups in seven out of nine districts. Sisattanak and Chanthabouly are the only two districts to not have any organic farmers’ groups established. The 10 organic rice growers’ groups have a total of 281 family members. And, there are 285 family members in the vegetable organic farmers’ groups.

Japan Grants US$7.44 M to Lao PDR KPL: Lao News Agency 27th Dec 2017
The Japanese government has decided to provide a grant aid package amounting to US$ 7.44 million (JPY837 million) to fund the implementation of the Project for the Improvement of Irrigated Agriculture in Tha Ngone, Vientiane. A signing ceremony for the exchange of notes on the grant aid project took place at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vientiane Capital. The notes were signed by Japan’s Ambassador to Laos, Mr Takeshi Hikihara and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Khamphao Ernthavanh. In the National Socio-Economic Development Plan (NSEDP), the government of the Lao PDR identifies food security as one of the most important outcomes, whereby the more robust food production against environmental fluctuations such as floods, draughts, etc. are deemed preconditions for stable food supply which is the foundation of all social and economic activities and is thus prioritised in the national policy. In line with this policy, the Lao PDR has strengthened its effort.

Farmers Get Help Reaching Fields KPL: Lao News Agency 21st Dec 2017
Farmers in Keosenkham village, Bolikhamxay Province, have taken delivery of new boat motors and hand tractors to help them work their fields. On Dec 15, staff from the Theun-Hinboun Power Company (THPC) handed to the villagers 141 boat motors and eight hand tractors worth a total of over 630 million kip. Located close to the Nam Gnouang Reservoir in Xaychamphone district, Ban Keosenkham is an upland village with little flat land, and its people mainly use hillside fields to grow rice and cash crops.

Vientiane's First Fecal Sludge Treatment Plant Launches The Laotian Times 11th Dec 2017
It’s official. Three years after the feasibility study was complete, Vientiane’s first fecal sludge treatment plant in Nahai (Xaysettha District) has officially launched. The plant was made possible through financial support from French metropolitan agencies SIAAP (Syndicat interdépartemental pour l’assainissement de l’agglomération parisienne), AIMF (Association Internationale des Maires francophones) and AESN (Agence de l’Eau Seine Normandie), costing over USD $1.4 million.

Food prices remain stable throughout 2017 Vientiane Times 2nd Jan 2018
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce has confirmed that prices of goods have remained at stable levels despite the country continuing to import many products from neighbouring countries. According to an assessment of the cost of staple products in the five-year period from 2013-2017 at markets around the country, foodstuffs increased by an average of 1-4 percent over the period, a ministry official, Ms Chansy Manichanh, told Vientiane Times last week. The price of rice, pork, beef and fish in Vientiane markets has remained stable. Grade A white polished rice is selling for 10,000 kip a kg, 8,750 kip a kg for grade A sticky rice, 33,000 kip a kg for grade A pork, 30,000 kip for grade B pork, 70,000 kip for grade A beef, 65,000 kip for grade B beef, and 22,000 kip a kg for fish. “The price of rice in Vientiane compared to Thailand, especially in Bangkok, is higher as Thailand is the main rice producer and exporter in the region,” she said.

Japan funds upgrade of irrigated agriculture in Thangon Vientiane 27th Dec 2017
The government of Japan has provided grant aid worth over 61 billion kip (837 million yen or about US$7.4 million) to carry out the Improvement of Irrigated Agriculture in Thangon project in Xaythany district, Vientiane. A grant for the project was signed at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday by Deputy Minister Mrs Khamphao Ernthavanh and the Ambassador of Japan to Laos Mr Takeshi Hikihara. The project will rehabilitate water pumps, canals, farm roads, etc. and will enable more than 100 hectares of land to be cultivated in the dry season. Japan has been engaged in the economic and social development of Laos for many years.

Agriculture survey to be broadened in 2019 Vientiane Times 20th Dec 2017
A nationwide agriculture survey to be carried out in 2019 will be widened and farmers will be questioned about the various practices they use. The plan for the survey was explained yesterday at the first meeting of the National Guiding Committee for the Third Nationwide Agriculture Survey. The survey will involve five forms and questionnaires will be circulated among all households in the country. As well as the questions asked in previous surveys, the 2019 survey will ask about farming business operations and production methods, the equipment and raw materials used, and land. Interviews will look into the circumstances of all villages throughout the country such as their location and classified areas, production situation, education, health, and incidence of natural disasters. Each household will be interviewed about their agricultural activities, their agricultural land area, and income generation.

Health & Life Sciences

Health, information authorities discuss medicinal product advertising ban Vientiane Times 22nd Dec 2017
Officials have confirmed that all advertising relating to medical products, and others making claims about improving people’s wellbeing, need to be approved by the health ministry. That was the message at a workshop yesterday attended by Deputy Director General of the Mass Media Department under the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Inpone Nakhonsy along with senior officials from the Ministry of Health and media. The prohibition aims to reduce the number of public complaints about bogus advertising according to the relevant health regulations, a health official said.

Health officials brush up on financial planning, accounting Vientiane Times 13th Dec 2017
The nation needs improved planning and accounting within the health sector so that adequate resources can be effectively and efficiently directed to target groups and projects. While some progress has been made in the health sector over recent years, inadequate planning had meant that in many areas, local people still faced barriers to access health services including those related to projects completed, Deputy Minister of Health, Mr Khamphone Phoutthavong said. The minister made the remarks at a workshop involving the Ministry of Health and provincial health departments yesterday in Vientiane on dissemination on National Health Accounts (NHA) for fiscal 2013 to 2016 aimed to aid the development of the overall sector.

Child health, nutrition among benefits as UNICEF allots 516 billion kip Vientiane Times 13th Dec 2017
UNICEF will provide a budget of more than 516 billion kip (US$ 62.8 million) to assist child support efforts and related infrastructure from 2017-2021. This budget will be used to improve health and nutrition, water and sanitation, climate change resilience, education, child protection and social inclusion. The information was outlined during the annual programme review meeting for 2017 held yesterday in Vientiane.

Laos Partners with Thailand, Myanmar to Control Air Quality The Laotian Times 12th Dec 2017
In an effort to control the cross-border smog caused by illegal forest fires, Laos has teamed up with Thailand and Myanmar to address the damage it has contributed to the environment and its poor air quality. Thailand’s Natural Resources and Environment Minister addressed the topic at a meeting earlier in the week, stating that illegal brush fires pose a threat to the air quality of Laos, Thailand and Myanmar. With all three countries plagued by forest fires, the meeting discussed measures on how to efficiently prevent and eliminate the issue of forest devastation and haze caused by wildfires in the North, calling on tighter border cooperation between the countries.

ICT

Lao Youth Trained for Future ICT Policy Formulation KPL: Lao News Agency 18th Dec 2017
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) funded a two-week training course on “Knowledge Co-Creation Programme for Young Leaders” under the theme Policy on Information and Communication for ten Lao youth officials from Nov 27 to Dec 12, 2017. The course, an activity of the International Cooperation Programme of the government of Japan, was conducted by Toshikatsu Tsuzuki of Fujitsu Learning Media Limited. A graduation ceremony for the trainees was held on Dec 12 at the Okinawa International Centre where certificates were presented to the trainees by Director General of JICA Okinawa Kawasaki Mitsuyoshi.

Infrastructure

Laos-China Railway Project 16% Complete The Laotian Times 9th Jan 2018
Experts working on the Laos-China Railway Project, which aims to connect Bohan-Boten (Laos-China border) to Vientiane Capital by railway, have stated that progress is currently estimated at 16.4% and expected to be completed as scheduled by the end of 2021. Over the past two years, contractors have completely drilled 53 channels passing through mountains, built 36 bridges with a total length of 54,000 metres, cleared land for building road access to construction areas with a total length of 800km, installed transmission lines over 400km in length, installed 233 transformers and built a water supply system over 93km long.

Lao, Chinese Investors Join Hands to Increase Steel Production KPL: Lao News Agency 5th Jan 2018
Khounkham Steel Industry, the manufacturer of Lao Twin Elephant Brand steel (CK), has signed an agreement with Vientiane DKK Steel on Jan 4, 2018 for a US$ 20 million project. Signatories to the agreement included Mr Home Sihachack, Director of Khounkham Steel Industry and Zhang Kun, President of DKK Steel. “The agreement we have signed today is the cooperation between a local private company and a foreign private company to increase the production capacity of all steel products in Savannakhet to meet market demand in the province thus reducing steel import and promoting export. Our cooperation will increase our reinforcing bars and steel flat bar production to 200,000-250,000 tonnes per year and increase the number of people employed at our factory to 150-250 people,” said Mr Home.

Vientiane-Vangvieng Highway, New Face of Transport System in Laos KPL: Lao News Agency 3rd Jan 2018
The Vientiane-Vangvieng highway will be part of the mega Laos-China Highway Project which will stretch between Vientiane and Boten in Luang Namtha where the Laos-China border is located. The Vientiane-Vangvieng highway will stretch 113.5 km between Vientiane and Vangvieng district, Vientiane Province. It is designed to be 23 m wide with 4 lanes, two incoming and outgoing. At a cost of around US$ 1.3 billion, the highway will be built between Sikeuth in Naxaythong district in Vientiane and eastern Vangvieng from which the next phase of the Laos-China highway project will be connected.

City’s roads set for major tidy-up operation Vientiane Times 22nd Dec 2017
Vientiane authorities will soon start an ambitious project to tidy up the surrounds of 21 roads in the capital, using Souphanouvong Road as a model, in a bid to crack down on the arbitrary use of pavements for parking and use by small business owners. Officials will attempt to remove the stalls of vendors selling goods along roadsides and dismantle shops and advertising signs that are unsightly or impede passage. The issue was discussed at a meeting held at the Sikhottabong district Administration Office on Friday.

Lao Tourism Sector in Trouble The Laotian Times 22nd Dec 2017
The latest statistics from the Lao government showed that the number of tourists has fallen, from January to September this year (2107). However, they also showed that more Chinese travelers are visiting Laos. The number of foreign tourists visiting Laos in the first nine months of 2017 dropped by 9.1% to just over 2.88 million people compared to the same period in 2016. The Chinese are the only nationality whose numbers have increased, according to data from the Information, Culture and Tourism Ministry (MOICT). More than 429,000 Chinese visited Laos, an increase of 5% compared to the first nine months of 2016.