Laos Update: May 2, 2019

Laos Update | May 2, 2019
Authors: Marc Mealy, Riley Smith and Ella Duangkaew
 
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Laos to Improve its Sub-Regional Connectivity via China-Thailand Rail Link

On the sidelines of the recent Belt Road Initiative (BRI) forum in Beijing, Laos PDR Minister of Transportation H.E. Bounchanh Sinthavong signed an agreement with Thailand’s Minister of Transportation H.E. Arkhom Termpittayapaisith and the Vice Chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission outlining a framework for how the three nations will develop a new “higher speed” rail network between southern China and Thailand. Two key elements of the project for Laos include the 400km long track from Vientiane to the China-Laos boarder (scheduled to be operational by 2021) and a new bridge across the Mekong river linking Vientiane to with Nong Khai province. As a landlocked nation, Laos economic competitiveness in terms of trade and attracting investment, is closely linked to the development of its transportation infrastructure. If the rail and bridge projects can reduce Laotian export costs and strengthen tourism arrivals by enhancing connectivity to Thailand and China, it could generate positive economic growth benefits. The Council will look to include exploring opportunities for US companies to engage with stakeholders involved with these projects in future Thailand and Laos PDR programs.

Laos PDR’ Ministry of Post and Telecommunication calls for more Investment into the Digital Economy

With many ASEAN nations formulating advanced or connected industrial manufacturing initiatives and strategies, the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications is urging the Government of Laos to elevate the development of domestic digital ecosystem as a priority element in its national development agenda. Even as a small land locked nation, analysts’ estimate that nearly 40% of the total population of Laotians are internet users, active social media users and mobile device users. However, in terms of a business case for investors to consider Laos as a competitive location for advanced or connected manufacturing activities a number of constraints will need to be addressed ranging from the availability of hard and soft digital infrastructure and the supply of educated talent with the necessary skills for the industrial manufacturing jobs of tomorrow. As the Council continues to develop collaboration opportunities with the ASEAN-BAC the ASEAN Human Empowerment and Development (AHEAD), which focuses on the challenges and opportunities presented by Industry 4.0, especially with regard to the need to re-skill and up-skill ASEAN's workforce may offer a good engagement platform for interested members. One of the planned activities under AHEAD is the submission of a report to the Senior Economic Officials Meeting (SEOM), the ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM), and ASEAN Leaders on skilled labor and professional services guidelines in response to Industry 4.0.

 
 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
25 Year Span: Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge Quarter Century Anniversary Arrives Via Australian Aid
Laos, China, Thailand agree to speed up work on regional rail link
Statement On Prior Consultation Process For Pak Lay Agreed

National Affairs
Ministry to regulate well drilling business
Cash for work project benefiting flood-hit communities
President extends good wishes for Lao New Year  
U.S. Welcomes New Lao Ambassador
Legislation officials build skills in assessing the impact of regulations
Champassak takes the lead in business registration improvement
Laos, U.S. Meet For 9th Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue
Laos Criminalizes Animal Abuse in Updated Penal Code

ASEAN
East Asia and Pacific Growth Expected to Moderate as Global Headwinds Persist, World Bank Says

Economics
WB Provides Additional Financing For Lao PDR Disaster Recovery

Energy
Energy sector powering growth in Laos
Lao Cabinet agrees to lower electricity price, orders action to strengthen economy | #AsiaNewsNetwork
CKP's Laos hydroelectric plant begins distribution

Financial Services
MOU SIGNING Thai, Lao central banks enhance cooperation

Food & Agriculture
Laos to produce over 5 mln tons of rice annually by 2025 - Xinhua

Health & Life Sciences
Laos joins other nations reviewing stance on sanitation, water
EU-UNICEF delegation takes stock of nutrition interventions in Phongsaly
Strengthening Government’s Capacity For Better Use Of Data For Nutrition
Thailand helps Laos in healthcare for people

Infrastructure
Infrastructure Development To Keep Laos Economy Growing Despite Headwinds, World Bank Says
PM tells Oudomxay to scrutinise developments
Laos to address key MRC concerns over Pak Lai dam
Chinese Investors Speed Up SEZ Development
President Bounnhang Urges Laos-China Railway Project To Meet Quality Standards
In Laos, A Chinese-Funded Railway Sparks Hope For Growth — And Fears Of Debt

Manufacturing
Future Electric: EV Destiny Driving Rapidly Towards Laos
Is Lao afraid of Industry 4.0?
Is it too late for Lao?

Travel & Tourism
Tourist hotspots gear up for Lao New Year visitors
1,000 Chinese on visit to Laos to promote tourism year

Vietnam
Việt Nam-Laos legislative ties keep growing: NA leader
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

25 Year Span: Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge Quarter Century Anniversary Arrives Via Australian Aid The Laotian Times 23rd Apr 2019
Hundreds of thousands of cross-border passenger and vehicle trips each year are made possible by the first friendship bridge that crosses the Mekong from Laos’ capital to neighboring Thailand and several additional spans just like it. Yet, there was a time when no such span existed. People and items had to be ferried across, a time consuming and expensive business.

Laos, China, Thailand agree to speed up work on regional rail link Vientiane Times 13th Apr 2019
Authorities in Laos, China and Thailand have agreed to speed up the construction of railways to link the three countries, a Lao minister has said. The Minister of Public Works and Transport, Dr Bounchanh Sinthavong, told local media recently that the agreement was reached when he met his Thai counterpart and Chinese authorities in Beijing last month. Lao and Chinese authorities have agreed to complete the construction of the railway line linking the Lao capital of Vientiane with the Chinese border by the 46th anniversary of the founding of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, which falls on December 2, 2021. As of February 28 this year, construction of the 414-km Laos-China railway was 61 percent complete. At the same time the Thai government will push for completion of the Thai-China high-speed railway linking Bangkok and Nong Khai by 2023, so that it can be connected to the track in Laos, the Bangkok Post reported recently. The 608-km Bangkok-Nong Khai railway is divided into two phases. The first comprises the 253-km section from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima while the second phase, measuring 355 km, will link Nakhon Ratchasima with Nong Khai.

Statement On Prior Consultation Process For Pak Lay Agreed KPL Lao News Agency 8th Apr 2019
The MRC member countries Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam agreed on Apr 4 a statement on the prior consultation process for the proposed Pak Lay hydropower project, as the members concluded the six-month prior consultation process. They also deliberated and landed an agreement on the pending joint action plan (JAP) for the implementation of the statement on the Pak Beng hydropower project, and the current JAP for the Pak Lay project. “The statement demonstrates our accountability to our leaders and people in the basin,” Chairperson of the MRC Joint Committee for 2019 Dr. Le Duc Trung said. “It also reflects stakeholders’ recommendations resulted from regional and national consultations on how to avoid, minimize and mitigate potential transboundary impacts from Pak Lay development and operation,” he added.

National Affairs

Ministry to regulate well drilling business Vientiane Times 19th Apr 2019
Drilling a well in Laos will no longer be as simple as it used to be now that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has stepped in to regulate these operations. The Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Mr Sommad Pholsena, signed a ministerial decision at the end of last month that authorises natural resource officials to regulate well drilling businesses around the country. The move comes amid the rapid growth of the well drilling business. Many people, particularly in the countryside, hire businesses to drill wells so they can get water for household use, livestock, their crops, or for commercial purposes.

Cash for work project benefiting flood-hit communities Vientiane Times 18th Apr 2019
Local communities impacted by flooding are benefiting under a ‘cash for work’ project as part of the collaboration between the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare and the United Nations Development Programme. The project began in 2018 to support the most vulnerable families, most of whom are tenant farmers or landless farm labourers, impacted by flooding in Khammuan province’s four districts of Mahaxay, Yommalath, Hinboun, and Nongbok. The project consists of two main activities: paying cash to local people who work with the project and supporting the elderly in communities impacted by last year’s flash floods. Under the project, members of these communities are repairing damaged irrigation systems as well as access roads and bridges. Minister of Labour and Social Welfare and Chairman of the National Disaster Prevention and Control Committee, Dr Khampheng Saysompheng, recently visited Khammuan to inspect the progress of the project. He said 2,784 local people had benefited from the initiative including those in highly prioritised areas.

President extends good wishes for Lao New Year   Vientiane Times 12th Apr 2019
President Bounnhang Vorachit has wished Lao people of all ethnicities, Lao expatriates living abroad, foreign expatriates in Laos and friendly countries happiness on the occasion of Pi Mai Lao (Lao New Year). People across the country are saying goodbye to 2561- the Year of the Dog - and welcoming 2562 – the Year of the Pig. The official Pi Mai Lao holiday is April 14-16. On this auspicious occasion, the President, who is also Secretary General of the Central Committee of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, represented the Party and state leaders yesterday in expressing warm solidarity and offering greetings and best wishes to all people. He hoped everyone would enjoy happiness, joy, peace, friendship and prosperity.    The president particularly offered best wishes to those who were victims of the deadly flood that swept through Sanamxay district, Attapeu province, last year, caused by the collapse of a dam that killed dozens of villagers. He also remembered those who suffered in other floods around the country. President Bounnhang hailed the solidarity of the Party, state, armed forces and the Lao multiethnic people, who are united in fulfilling the Resolution adopted by the 10th Party Congress and the five-year National Socio-economic Development Plan (2016-2020).

U.S. Welcomes New Lao Ambassador KPL Lao News Agency 11th Apr 2019
On April 8, President Donald J. Trump formally accepted the credentials of the new Lao Ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Khamphan Anlavan, at the White House in Washington, DC. Ambassador Khamphan’s presentation of credentials in the Oval Office followed the successful completion of the ninth annual U.S.-Laos Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue and the ASEAN-U.S. Dialogue meetings on March 27 and 28, 2019, which also took place in Washington, DC. “In the past three years, cooperation between the governments and people of the United States and Laos has experienced rapid growth in terms of the number of people, programmes, and issues in which we work together,” said U.S. Ambassador to Lao PDR Rena Bitter. “Ambassador Khamphan will be a great partner in Washington as we continue to deepen the warm ties between our two peoples and governments. The U.S. is focused on the importance of ASEAN centrality and committed to a strong bilateral relationship based on respect for Lao sovereignty,” she added. The United States Embassy sincerely appreciates the efforts of the Government of the Lao PDR as ASEAN Country Coordinator for the United States, and we offer early wishes to all Lao people for a joyful and prosperous Lao New Year from April 14-16, 2019.

Legislation officials build skills in assessing the impact of regulations Vientiane Times 11th Apr 2019
The Ministry of Justice is rolling out a major training programme to professionalise policymakers at the local level to put in place regulatory environments that foster the development of Lao businesses and communities. The programme is led by the Centre for Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA Centre) established at the Legislation Department, Ministry of Justice. The four-day programme from April 8-11 for government officials from all 17 provinces and the capital is looking at the requirements of the Law on Making Legislation which defines the principles, regulations and procedures for drawing up legislation in Laos with a strong focus on regulatory impact assessment (RIA). RIA provides a process for policymakers to develop and review regulations that achieve objectives in a way that minimises the requirements and negative impacts on individuals and businesses in complying with the regulations, and on the government in administering and enforcing compliance.

Champassak takes the lead in business registration improvement Vientiane Times 10th Apr 2019
Kong district in the southern province of Champassak looks set to become a new model in the implementation of one-stop services and the improvement of business registration, which provinces nationwide should learn from. District authorities have established a one-stop service in each office, making it easier for people to register a new business and obtain an operating licence. In addition, district authorities have issued a notice which gives clear information about which district offices businesspeople should contact in order to obtain the necessary legal documents to support the establishment and operation of their business. Information about the documents that businesses must submit, how long it will take authorities to consider and approve proposals by business operators to start a business, as well as public service fees, is provided, according to the notice, which is posted on the Lao official gazette website, hosted by the Ministry of Justice. According to the notice, which was officially endorsed by Champassak Governor Dr Bounthong Divixay, different offices are assigned to issue licences for different businesses and charge varying service fees. For example, the Kong district information, culture and tourism office is assigned to be in charge of issuing business operation licences to a number of businesses ranging from barber shops to guesthouses.

Laos, U.S. Meet For 9th Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue KPL Lao News Agency 8th Apr 2019
The Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) and the United States held their 9th annual Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue on March 27, 2019 in Washington D.C., reflecting the growing, broad-based relationship between the two nations. Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Thongphane Savanphet led the Lao delegation, together with Ambassador to the United States Khamphan Anlavan. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs W. Patrick Murphy and U.S. Ambassador to Laos Rena Bitter led the U.S. delegation, with senior representatives from the U.S. Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Commerce, and Agriculture; the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative; and the United States Agency for International Development. The delegations agreed to continue to expand ties in accordance with the 2016 Joint Declaration on the Comprehensive Partnership between the United States and Laos, and to explore new areas of cooperation.

Laos Criminalizes Animal Abuse in Updated Penal Code Laotian Times 5th Apr 2019
Laos has added a new section to its penal code that criminalizes animal abuse. This section appears in the latest version of the country’s penal code, which was promulgated by the Lao Government on November 18, 2018. Article 353 of the updated penal code states that individuals who abuse or mistreat animals, including acts such as ​incarceration without food or water, use of animals for labor without adequate rest, severe beatings, transportation in substandard conditions, cruel slaughter of animals, or the use of poison against animals, will face imprisonment or fines of between 500,000 kip to 3,000,000 kip.

ASEAN

East Asia and Pacific Growth Expected to Moderate as Global Headwinds Persist, World Bank Says World Bank 24th Apr 2019
Growth in developing East Asia and the Pacific (EAP) is projected to soften to 6.0 percent in 2019 and 2020, down from 6.3 percent in 2018, largely reflecting global headwinds and a continued gradual policy-guided slowdown in China. Still, the region’s economies weathered the financial markets volatility of 2018 relatively well largely due to effective policy frameworks and strong fundamentals, including diversified economies, flexible exchange rates, and solid policy buffers. While trade policy uncertainty has abated somewhat, global trade growth is likely to moderate further, according to Managing Headwinds, the April 2019 edition of the World Bank East Asia and Pacific Economic Update released here today. Domestic demand has remained strong in much of the region, the report adds, partly offsetting the impact of slowing exports. China’s ongoing, policy-guided slowdown will lead to 6.2 percent growth in 2019 and 2020, down from 6.6 percent in 2018. Growth in Indonesia and Malaysia is projected to remain unchanged in 2019, while growth rates in Thailand and Vietnam are expected to be slightly lower in 2019.  In the Philippines, a delay in approving the 2019 national government budget is expected to weigh on GDP growth in 2019, but growth is anticipated to pick up in 2020. Growth prospects among the smaller economies in EAP remain favorable. Large infrastructure projects are expected to accelerate growth for Lao PDR and Mongolia. Cambodia’s growth is projected to remain robust, although at a slower pace than in 2018, mainly due to weaker-than-expected external demand. Expansionary fiscal policy is expected to boost growth in Myanmar in the short term, while recent structural reforms are expected to support growth in the medium term.

Economics

WB Provides Additional Financing For Lao PDR Disaster Recovery KPL Lao News Agency 4th Apr 2019
Two World Bank projects, currently helping the Lao PDR to build climate resilient infrastructure and respond to flood-affected areas of the country, will receive additional financing totaling USD$50 million. Financing will become available through a special Crisis Response Window allocation from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the world’s most in-need countries, approved March 11 by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors. “All parts of our country have suffered from the effects of last year’s heavy flooding, with loss of life, property, and livelihoods, as well as significant damages to public infrastructure,” said Bounchanh Sinthavong, Minister of Public Works and Transport. “The cost of disaster recovery and reconstruction is estimated at more than US$520 million. This additional financing from the World Bank will help us build back better and more resilient roads, waterways, and embankments.” The 2018 rainy season was unusually heavy, affecting more than 616,000 people and causing 56 deaths.

Energy

Energy sector powering growth in Laos Xinhua 8th Apr 2019
Laos' energy sector is set to boost its installed capacity to about 9,152.9 megawatts (MW) in 2019, once 12 more power plants kickstart commercial operations. According to the Ministry of Energy and Mines, the 12 projects, which are currently under construction, will have an additional installed capacity of 1,959.94 MW. Of this, 1,575 MW will be sold to Thailand and the rest 384.94 MW will be used for local consumption, local daily Vientiane Times reported on Monday. So far Laos has 57 power plants (1MW and larger) that are commercially operational with an installed capacity of about 7,193 MW, which generate about 36,935.23 GWh yearly. The 57 plants include 49 hydropower plants, a lignite plant, five solar plants and two plants that generate electricity from waste. The 57 plants include 10 that are the responsibility of state-owned Electricite du Laos (EDL), with an installed capacity of about 211.70 MW that can generate about 831,42 GWh annually. Another 10 projects are under EDL-Generation Public Company (EDL-GEN), with 699MW of installed capacity that can generate about 3,145.5GWh annually. The remaining 37 projects belong to independent power producers (IPP), and have an installed capacity of 6,282.40MW, and can generate about 32,958.31 GWh annually.

Lao Cabinet agrees to lower electricity price, orders action to strengthen economy | #AsiaNewsNetwork Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 26th Apr 2019
The government cabinet has agreed to revise the electricity unit price structure to lower the cost of electricity, as an incentive to boost investment and productivity. Cabinet members agreed on the move at their ordinary monthly meeting for April, which took place on Tuesday and Wednesday. The revised structure, which will be effective until 2025, will introduce lower power prices, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a press release. “The improvement in the electricity price [structure] will mean the cost of energy is cheaper and more reasonable than before,” it said. The revision will also ensure that investors in electricity generation are profitable so that investment in the sector is sustainable. Chaired by Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, the two-day sitting also ordered thorough action to review progress made in realising the eight measures adopted by the government to boost growth amid economic hardship. The measures include improving the currency policy and preventing inflation, improving the business environment, promoting small and medium enterprises, and efficient revenue collection.

CKP's Laos hydroelectric plant begins distribution Bangkok Post 23rd Apr 2019
The 1,285-megawatt (MW) Xayaburi hydroelectric power plant in Laos has begun distributing power from the first generator unit to the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat), says SET-listed CK Power Plc (CKP). Yesterday, the power business arm of SET-listed construction firm Ch. Karnchang announced the Xayaburi power plant has started commissioning distribution of electricity during this operating period for Egat. Egat approved the unit being ready for operation, said Thanawat Trivisvavet, managing director of CKP.

Financial Services

MOU SIGNING Thai, Lao central banks enhance cooperation The Nation 5th Apr 2019
The Bank of Thailand and the Bank of Laos PDR have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on cooperation in the areas of financial innovation and payments systems in Chiang Rai yesterday after the meeting of the 5th Asean Finance Ministers’ and Central Governors’ Meeting and related meetings in Chiang Rai yesterday. Veerathai Santiprabhob, governor of the Bank of Thailand (BOT), and Sonexay Sitphaxay, governor of the Bank of Lao PDR, signed the MOU that aims to enhance the collaboration on financial innovation and payment services to promote more efficient and secured domestic and cross-border payment transactions, as well as to promote the usage of local currencies. The two central banks are working together to develop interoperable QR Code for payments and innovative real time remittance to facilitate cross-border retail payment services between Lao PDR and Thailand. In this connection, their financial institutions have been collaborating to offer cross-border QR payment to enable easy and convenient payment for Laos and Thai tourists, as well as SMEs in both countries to receive payments in an efficient and convenient way. The progress is also achieved in the area of corporate funds transfer between two countries using blockchain technology, Veerathai said.

Food & Agriculture

Laos to produce over 5 mln tons of rice annually by 2025 - Xinhua Xinhua 29th Apr 2019
The Lao Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry plans to produce at least five million tons of paddy rice every year, as the country's latest five-year agricultural strategy by 2025 states. The report, a five-year development plan until 2025, states that the Lao ministry's expectation is for the Gross Domestic Product of the agriculture and forestry sector to grow at an average rate of 3.4 percent. This would mean the sector would contribute 19 percent to the national economy, local daily Vientiane Times reported on Monday. By 2025, using good agricultural planning and in cooperation with industry partners, the Lao ministry says all Lao citizens will have a daily minimum intake of 2,600 kilocalories. Each year, the Lao ministry plans for a national yield of at least five million tons of paddy rice, of which 30 percent is non-glutinous. Economists have urged the government to implement policies that will assist the agriculture sector and rice growers in particular. Productive agriculture is key to the eradication of poverty and improved livelihoods, the daily report said.

Health & Life Sciences

Laos joins other nations reviewing stance on sanitation, water Vientiane Times 12th Apr 2019
Laos joined other countries and development partners at the Sector Ministers’ Meeting (SMM) which was convened by the Sanitation and Water for All partnership in San Jose, Costa Rica on April 4-5. Topics at the meeting centred on supporting the achievement of the water, sanitation and hygiene-related (WASH) targets of the Sustainable Development Goals. Speaking at the meeting, Deputy Health Minister, Associate Prof. Dr Phouthone Moungpak, highlighted the importance of access to safely managed water supplies and sanitation facilities. He said the Lao government was encouraging aims to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030. According to the Lao Social Indicator Survey in 2018, the proportion of the population having a water supply was 83 percent. “During the meeting, participants supported the achievement of the water, sanitation and hygiene-related targets of SDG 6 under the theme ‘Washing away inequalities’,” Dr Phouthone said. The meeting brought together ministers responsible for water, sanitation and hygiene and senior government officials from different regions and development levels, as well as leaders from other stakeholders, including civil society, the private sector, and donors.

EU-UNICEF delegation takes stock of nutrition interventions in Phongsaly Vientiane Times 12th Apr 2019
Delegations from the EU and UNICEF jointly observed the progress of efforts to improve nutrition in local communities during a four-day visit to Phongsaly province this week. The delegation, led by the European Union Ambassador to the Lao PDR, Leo Faber and UNICEF Representative, Octavian Bivol, began their visit to Bounneua and Nhot-ou districts on Monday, with the aim of observing nutrition interventions under the Partnership for Improved Nutrition. In Huay-yeuang village in Bounneua district and Savang village in Nhot-ou district, the delegation participated in two integrated health outreach activities, which are government-led service delivery strategies to facilitate access to health and nutrition services for people from villages that have no health centre. The services provided during the integrated outreach sessions include hygiene promotion, maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition interventions, such as antenatal and post-natal care, infant and child growth monitoring, immunisation, vitamin A supplementation, deworming for children between 6 and 59 months of age, screening children under five years of age for acute malnutrition using Mid-Upper Arm Circumference and health and nutrition education. Partners also visited the Northern Uplands Food Security project in Huaypae Neua village, implemented by Care International and in partnership with Comite de Cooperation avec le Laos (CCL) with EU support. This project aims to improve the food and nutrition security of ethnic women and their families by addressing the underlying causes of malnutrition and equipping communities with the tools to take sustainable action.

Strengthening Government’s Capacity For Better Use Of Data For Nutrition KPL Lao News Agency 8th Apr 2019
As part of the National Information Platforms for Nutrition (NIPN) initiative, the European Union (EU) and UNICEF are building the capacity of Government staff to make better use of evidence and data to design and implement nutrition related policies and programmes through a workshop in Vientiane on April 3. The workshop titled “Support to the implementation of the NIPN operational cycle: formulation of policy-relevant questions and analyses of existing data” seeks to build the capacity of the team to operationalize the initiative, provide guidance and discuss priorities in the action plan for the next sixth months. “The NIPN initiative is strengthening capacities in the Lao PDR to monitor progress towards under nutrition reduction, contributing to implement more cost-effective and evidence-based policies. This training will greatly contribute to build institutional capacity for evidence-based policy formulation and nutrition programming in the Lao PDR,” said Dr. Kikeo Chantaboury, Vice Minister of Planning and Investment. The Global Support Facility (GSF) which provides technical support to NIPN implementing countries globally will facilitate a workshop for the Lao NIPN Country Team and Data and Policy Analysis Units, including members of the NIPN Secretariat.

Thailand helps Laos in healthcare for people vietnamplus.vn 16th Apr 2019
Thailand is planning to implement its Cholangiocarcinoma Screening and Care Programme (CASCAP) to help risky groups in neighbouring Laos, Narong Kantikaew, according to local media. Earlier, the programme was carried out in Thailand’s Northeast. Dr Narong Kantikaew from Thailand’s Khon Kaen University said the project financed by the Hong Kong-based Kadoorie Foundation via Imperial College London, project is worth the one-million pounds (41 million baht). It is scheduled to be launched on April 22 and last for three years to prevent 70-80 percent of the more than six million Lao people from falling prey to liver fluke and Cholangiocarcinoma, The Nation reported. In collaboration with the Laos Public Health Ministry, experience of working in Thailand’s Northeast under the programme will be utilised to campaign and provide medical services to villagers in Laos. According to Dr Narong said people in Thailand’s Northeast and Laos have similar eating habits and a similar way of life, and eating raw meat is popular there. The project will benefit not only Laos but also Thailand, as people in the region cross the border to work in Thailand. Under the project, medical officials and volunteers will provide medical services and educate Lao people on how to prevent liver fluke and Cholangiocarinonma. More than six million Thai people are estimated to suffer from liver fluke and 20,000 of them have Cholangicarcinoman.

Infrastructure

Infrastructure Development To Keep Laos Economy Growing Despite Headwinds, World Bank Says The Laotian Times 24th Apr 2019
Global economic headwinds are impacting on the East Asia Pacific, yet large infrastructure projects are still expected to accelerate economic growth in Laos, according to The World Bank.  The Bank sees “prospects for growth in developing East Asia and the Pacific (EAP) softening to 6.0 percent in 2019 and 2020, down from 6.3 percent in 2018”. “This is to largely reflect global headwinds and a continued gradual policy-guided slowdown in China,” the report states.

PM tells Oudomxay to scrutinise developments Vientiane Times 18th Apr 2019
Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has asked Oudomxay provincial leaders to scrutinise private investment projects in detail so that economic growth in the northern province can be driven by high quality developments and programmes. The premier gave the advice on April 12 during a visit to the province in which he met with provincial governor Dr Khamphanh Pheuyavong and many other senior officials.  He told all present that investments must meet the developmental needs of the province. Only fully qualified investors who have good investment backgrounds, experiences and sufficient technical expertise should be given contracts to facilitate infrastructure projects, he told the meeting. The PM advised provincial officials to create conditions that will help facilitate business operations and activity.  He said a rule based system must underpin provincial operations and any issues which arise must be dealt with in a transparent and fair manner. The provincial leadership team was told to concentrate on capturing the untapped potentials of Oudomxay province and to seek creative ways to respond to challenges as they arise. He said this was especially necessary as the province draws up a new development agenda.

Laos to address key MRC concerns over Pak Lai dam Vientiane Times 11th Apr 2019
The government has made a commitment to take the key recommendations of Mekong River Commission (MRC) members and relevant stakeholders into account when designing and building the Pak Lai hydropower project, according to a senior official. Speaking at a session in Vientiane to mark the end of the Prior Consultation Process of the Pak Lai dam project last week, Lao government representative Mr Chanthanet Boualapha said the government and the project developer had carefully reviewed the key findings and recommendations of all MRC countries. “We hope that the Mekong River Commission Secretariat (MRCS) and member countries will take note and acknowledge the perspectives from the Lao side. Of course, with regard to the key recommendations of the Technical Review Report, we will take all concerning issues into account,” he said. “Some issues appear not to be practical or implementable for this project, but we may consider them as lessons for the future.” The government proposed at the end of last year that the MRC Secretariat begin the Prior Consultation Process for the Pak Lai dam, one of the dams on the Mekong in Laos, in accordance with the 1995 Mekong Agreement. The treaty is designed to promote regional cooperation and the sustainable development of the river.

Chinese Investors Speed Up SEZ Development KPL Lao News Agency 9th Apr 2019
A group of Chinese investors have invested at least 10 billion yuan to speed up developing the infrastructure of the Boten Specific Economic Zone (SEZ) in Luang Namtha Province, northern Laos. “Boten Specific Economic Zone is adjacent to border town of Mohan in China’s Yunnan province. Over 50,000 Chinese tourists are expected to flock to the SEZ annually once it is fully built and the Laos-China railway is completed in 2021,” said Mr Kang Peng, in charge of investment promotion, Boten Specific Economic Zone. “We are trying to make Boten Specific Economic Zone a modern economic hub. It will be a market for cultural exchange, an international financial center, a shopping center, an investment and free trade zone,” said Mr Kang. Once the Laos-China railway construction project is completed, Boten will be the first stop in Laos for passengers traveling from China. A Chinese contractor has been tapped to build a massive train station in Boten to accommodate the anticipated heavy flow of people and freight. Two months ago, Lao and Chinese officials marked the completion of boring and construction of the Boten tunnel, the first of 10 major tunnels under the Laos-China railway project.

President Bounnhang Urges Laos-China Railway Project To Meet Quality Standards KPL Lao News Agency 7th Apr 2019
President Bounnhang Vorachit has urged relevant sectors of the Laos-China Railway Project to ensure the project meets required quality standards and environmental requirements. During a guidance visit to the Laos-China Railway Project in Naxaythong district, Vientiane Capital on Apr 5, President Bounnhang also urged the sectors involved in the construction of the Laos-China railway to create more jobs for local workers making sure they are represented in all levels of positions and to encourage local people to take part in the protection of the railway. President Bounnhang was accompanied by ministers, deputy ministers, the Chairman of the Laos-China Railway Co., Ltd Ju Guojiang, and senior officials of relevant authorities. The Laos-China railway stretches more than 400 km from Luang Namtha in northern Laos to Vientiane. The rail line will be connected with Yunxi-Bohan rail network at Laos-China border in northern Laos and a railway in Nongkhai, northeastern Thailand. The rail line will traverse through Oudomxay, Luang Prabang and Vientiane provinces.

In Laos, A Chinese-Funded Railway Sparks Hope For Growth — And Fears Of Debt NPR.org 26th Apr 2019
In Southeast Asia's only landlocked country, the Mekong River is a lifeline. Just over 9 miles north of Luang Prabang, a startling aberration appears: five giant concrete pylons rising out of the water. Red cranes top each of the pylons. A bridge is being built here. On either bank, the row of pylons continues until it almost hits the mountainsides, with scaffolding and other heavy construction equipment scattered below. When it's finished, the bridge will be part of a new China-Laos railway. Its planned 250-plus miles of track are meant to connect China's southern Yunnan province with Laos' capital, Vientiane. Laotian officials have promised the high-speed railway, slated to open in 2021, will be good for the country. But for many Laotian people, the benefits aren't yet clear. The railway is part of China's Belt and Road Initiative — a $1.3 trillion project that looks to establish a vast network of investment and infrastructure spanning Asia, Europe and Africa.

Manufacturing

Future Electric: EV Destiny Driving Rapidly Towards Laos The Laotian Times 8th Apr 2019
Promising prospects for electric vehicles (EV) in Laos as an agreement signed between power producer ລັດວິສາຫະກິດໄຟຟ້າລາວ EDL and electric-powered vehicle proponents EVLao, The Laotian Times reports. Looking to industry leaders at manufacturing hotpots like Japan, Germany & China, it would appear the early arrival of the electric age when it comes to motor vehicle transport is already well and truly upon us. In Laos, a milestone was marked with the holding of the nation’s first electric vehicle summit and MoU signing last week in the capital Vientiane at the very first Lao National Electric Vehicle Summit. . The agreement will see the trial of vehicle charging stations and technology to push progress towards a future where electric vehicles are more free to traverse the highways and byways of Laos and beyond. “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.” – William Gibson At a time when technology is progressing faster than ever, these words attributed to futurist and science-fiction writer William Gibson are revealing.

Is Lao afraid of Industry 4.0? The ASEAN Post 29th Apr 2019
The ASEAN Post recently published an article stating that Lao PDR is somewhat left behind compared to other ASEAN countries when it comes to getting ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, also known as Industry 4.0. The issue was highlighted when Director General of the Lao National Internet Café, Keovisouk Solaphom, claimed that the challenges faced in digitising the local economy was due to the fact that it has not been listed in Lao’s development agenda. His argument is valid but in order for the government there to set the development of the digital economy as its agenda, it must have the political will to do so. The question Keovisouk must ask is whether Lao, one of the few remaining socialist-communist countries in the world, really wants to do what he’s suggesting. Industry 4.0 is important if a country hopes to be able to compete on a global scale. Those aware of this would think that striving to create an environment that can cater to the demands of the industrial revolution would be on every country’s agenda. This, however, does not take into account the fact that politics has a way of making things a little more complicated.

Is it too late for Lao? The ASEAN Post 23rd Apr 2019
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a train that you either get on or you’ll find yourself being left far, far behind. ASEAN is aware of this. We’ve seen countries like Indonesia and Thailand take lessons from Germany’s model of a 4.0 economy. We’ve also seen countries like Malaysia invest large sums of money on the expansion of information technology (IT) infrastructure to provide an enabling environment for the growth of the digital economy. Advanced countries like Singapore need no further explanation. Even in Cambodia, International non-profit organisations like Oxfam International have set up the Blockchain for Livelihoods from Organic Cambodian Rice (Blocrice) which kicked off a pilot project for last year's harvest with 50 organic rice farmers onboard. Now, the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications in Lao PDR has also urged the government there to place more focus on the digital economy to speed up the development of the global initiative. Recently, Director General of the Lao National Internet Café, Keovisouk Solaphom, claimed that the challenges faced in digitising the local economy was due to the fact that it has not been listed in the development agenda. According to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitiveness Index 2017-2018 edition, Lao was ranked 98 out of 137 countries indexed. Out of the 12 pillars, Lao earned the lowest score for technological readiness with only 3.0 points out of 7, ranking a lowly 110 out of 137 countries for the pillar.  This pillar includes components such as availability of latest technologies, firm-level technology absorption, foreign direct investment and technology transfer, internet users, fixed-broadband internet subscriptions, internet bandwidth, and mobile-broadband subscriptions. The pillar Lao earned the second lowest score for also raised alarm bells as far as being “ready” to face the Fourth Industrial Revolution goes. This pillar was higher education and Lao scored just 3.5 points out of 7 and ranked 105 out of 137 countries for the pillar.

Travel & Tourism

Tourist hotspots gear up for Lao New Year visitors Vientiane Times 11th Apr 2019
Vientiane province has always been popular with visitors and now provincial authorities are preparing special activities over Lao New Year (Pi Mai Lao) to ensure that everyone who visits has a truly memorable time. The province’s Vangvieng and Meuangfeuang districts are the main attractions as there is plenty to do and the scenery is spectacular, so these are the places to head to for a relaxing holiday. This year the official Lao New Year holiday runs from April 14-16. Head of Meuangfeuang district’s Information, Culture and Tourism office, Mr Khamlek Thipphavong, told Vientiane Times yesterday that authorities are making Don Kang beach by the Nam Lik River the focus of attention. They are setting up a concert stage on the beach and organising kayaking and rafting on the river, which will be a welcome respite from the heat. Visitors can also eat tasty local food at huts that have been built by the river. The beach will be open all day and visitors need only pay 5,000 kip each to cross the wooden bridge to access the various activities. Don Kang beach is 5km from the main town in Meuangfeuang district and can be accessed by road.

1,000 Chinese on visit to Laos to promote tourism year Vientiane Times 9th Apr 2019
A group of 1,000 Chinese tourists including 50 officials arrived in Vientiane on Saturday, in support of efforts by the Lao and Chinese governments to boost tourism during Visit Laos-China Year 2019. The Lao government hosted a welcome ceremony for the group in Vientiane on Sunday, which was led by Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, Prof. Dr Bosengkham Vongdara. The minister warmly welcomed the visitors, noting they were the first officially-arranged Chinese tour group to visit Laos as part of Visit Laos-China Year 2019. The welcome ceremony raised the profile of Visit Laos-China Year 2019, with participants from both Laos and China gaining a deeper insight into each other’s culture through a series of performances. Prof. Dr Bosengkham said the governments of Laos and China hoped to attract a large number of Chinese visitors to Laos this year, while also encouraging Lao people to visit China.

Vietnam

Việt Nam-Laos legislative ties keep growing: NA leader vietnamnews.vn 26th Apr 2019
The comprehensive co-operation between the national assemblies of Việt Nam and Laos has developed fruitfully, said Vice Chairwoman of the Vietnamese National Assembly (NA) Tòng Thị Phóng. During talks with her Lao counterpart Somphanh Phengkhammy in Hà Nội on Thursday, Phóng said leaders of the two parliaments have held regular meetings and co-chaired activities to share their experience in law-making and supervision. The sides have also co-ordinated on multilateral diplomatic affairs, particularly at inter-parliamentary forums such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) and the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum (APPF), she said.