Laos Update: March 11, 2020

Laos Update | March 11, 2020
Authors: Hai Pham, Natalie Tantisirirat, Jacob Corfman
 
 
 
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Ministry of Commerce Improves Enterprise Registration Process

On February 21, Mr. Somphuang Phienphinith, Director General of the Enterprise Registration and Management Department announced improvements to Laos’ business registration process for foreign investors and local entrepreneurs. The new registration process cuts down the number of steps from ten to three: 1) register the business with a background check, 2) obtain a business stamp, and 3) register the workforce. The timeline of the registration process has also been reduced from 178-days to 30-days. The aim of the new enterprise registration process is to improve Laos’ position in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings in terms of starting a business, attracting quality investments and enhancing the competitive capacity of domestic businesses.

Laos’ Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Participate in the Access to Finance Project

On February 27, the Laos’ Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Access to Finance Project underwent its final review by the International Labor Organization (ILO) technical assistance assignment. First launched in September 2019, the SME Access to Finance Project has assisted more than 600 business in Laos, where over 80 percent of businesses are categorized as small with 5 or fewer employees. In the review, the ILO representative made the following points in moving forward with the project:

  • SME programs need to focus on supporting the existing Business Development Service (BDS) network and the SME Service Center. The link between SMEs and financial institutions should also be strengthened.
  • SME support should prioritize program participants that have approved business plans.
  • Dialogue between the government, SMEs, and commercial banks should be increased to help resolve financing difficulties that SMEs may face.
  • The ILO training tool that was jointly developed with the BDS network and Laos in Business should be used to encourage format standardization for business and financial plans.

The World Bank has been reported to be particularly encouraged by the environment Laos provides SMEs considering the robust investment China is making in the country’s infrastructure.

Ministry of Finance Introduces New Charges on In-Transit Goods

The Ministry of Finance has approved a new regulation that adds a transit fee to finished goods that are imported for export purposes. The regulation also dictates that finished goods imported for export purposes are not allowed to be distributed in Laos. The new rates will vary by product and quantity. The Council will continue to track this regulation and will provide more information on the new rates as soon as it become available.

Committee formed to Inspect Dam Safety

On March 3, an anonymous official from the Ministry of Energy and Mines announced to Radio Free Asia that a committee of local and foreign experts was formed to inspect the safety of Laos’ dams. Currently, there are 39 operational dams in the country, 24 under construction, and 291 in the planning stage or undergoing research and development. As of March 3, the committee completed inspections of 13 dams and found the 104-megawatt (MW) Nam Chien Dam in Xieng Khouang to be unsatisfactory and in need of improvement. The committee plans to inspect the remaining 26 dams in operation before the rainy season hits, then continue to evaluate the 22 out of the 24 presently under construction and 4 which are still being designed.

 
ADVOCACY UPDATE
 
 

In response to the hearing held by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on the country designation review of Laos as a GSP beneficiary country, the Council has drafted the below position to affirm our support of Laos’s GSP review, as follows:

The US-ASEAN Business Council strongly believes that both the businesses and citizens of America and Laos will mutually benefit from a robust trade relationship. Laos has met all the eligibility criteria for a GSP designation. The Council supports the designation of Laos as a GSP beneficiary country, as it is one of many tools that utilizes international trade to promote economic growth and sustainable development. We encourage USTR and the Lao government to continue working together to expand bilateral trade flows to realize the full potential of the US-Laos economic relationship.

This position may be shared with the US Government in the form of a formal comment/letter.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 

Regional Affairs
Vietnam, Laos step up legislative cooperation in 2020: Top legislator
Lao exports to China continue to flow as normal: report
Laos proud at achievements of Communist Party of Vietnam: Lao officials
Thailand and Laos to meet next month work to boost bilateral trade

National Affairs
Laos Establishes Committee to Inspect Safety of Nation’s Dams
Laos’ Thongloun calls for better trained workforce, labour data improvement
New programme launched to strengthen the Rule of Law in Laos
Vientiane People’s Council draws up plans for 2020

Market Development
U.S. Renews Partnership with Lao PDR to Build Capacity in UXO Sector

ASEAN
U.S. postpones summit with ASEAN leaders amid coronavirus fears: sources
US to reaffirm commitment to Asean in upcoming summit: Diplomats
ASEAN nations hit by data breaches, ransomware attacks and cryptojacking last year, Interpol says

Customs
Ministry imposes new charges on goods transiting through Laos
Laos to increase coffee beans export in 2020
Laos to open Pang Mon border checkpoint Feb 1
Xekong on track to have first international border crossing with Vietnam

Defense & Security
New Arms Delivery Puts Russia-Laos Defense Ties in the Headlines

Economics
Laos: 600 use SME finance initiative
Rubber falls to second place in export value, despite rise in foreign sales
Value of imports dips, trade deficit plummets in Laos
Commerce ministry in Laos takes new steps to ease business start-up
Laos Clarifies Business Requirements for Vehicle Industry

Energy
Agreement signed for Nam Ngum dam 1 floating solar power project
Laos improves dam safety amid surge in energy exports
Laos to Build World's Largest Floating Solar Power Project at Nam Ngum 1
Laos consults Mekong nations on proposed Luang Prabang dam/power plant
Lao electricity exports increase 145% within 2016-2020
Laos to export 20,000 MW of electricity by 2030
Countries urge Laos to conduct dam impact studies

Financial Services
BOL launches QR Code payment standard
U.S. Renews Partnership with Lao PDR to Build Capacity in UXO Sector


Food & Agriculture
Export roadmap carves out direction for Lao wood processing sector
Laos: Govt instructs ministries to devise measures to deal with bushfires, air pollution, unregulated burning of garbage
Mekong River Dams Disrupting Lives Of Southeast Asian Fishermen, Farmers
Pork Prices Rising in Laos Due to 2019 African Swine Fever Epidemic and Natural Disasters
Livestock top earner among Laos’ agricultural exports
EU, ITC team up with Lao PDR to improve food-safety, boost exports
FAO help train Laos officials on climate mapping, zoning
FAO holds informal meeting in Laos to discuss future of food, agriculture
Quality crop ensures good income for Xieng Khuang coffee growers
Laos weighs on export of 100,000 tons rice to Cuba
Lao-Chinese partnership to develop industry and agriculture in Savannakhet

Health & Life Sciences
No Covid-19 case but Laos implements tough prevention measures
JLK Inspection partners with Laos’ National TB Center and CHAI to expand access to TB screening
Reporters get facts on HPV vaccine programme
Complications From Diabetes An Increasing Concern
U.S. Provides Personal Protective Equipment to Lao PDR in Response to Coronavirus Outbreak
Laos Stays Corona-free, but Virus Shakes Travel Trade
No coronavirus in Laos, tests done at ministry lab confirm
Laos establishes specialised committee for fighting nCoV
Why Laos Has Not Reported Any Coronavirus Cases
Laos Steps Up Efforts to Prevent Coronavirus Outbreak

ICT
Laos Launches QR Code Payment Standard

Infrastructure
Mekong nations, China push for more trade, investment, connectivity
Work on Vientiane Expressway No. 1 Project begins
Laos granted multimillion-dollar projects via Mekong-Lancang cooperation
Lao Official Urges Clarity in Hiring of Lao Workers for China Railway Project
EDL, Japan raise awareness of dam safety issues
Luang Namtha to Become New Regional Transport Hub
WB supports Laos in disaster reconstruction, resilience
World Bank approves $50 million for disaster management in Laos
Laos to review progress of smart city scheme
China’s rail network opens up transport links in Laos
Thailand provides 1.38 billion baht to Laos for construction of new bridge
Understanding China's BRI in Laos

Travel & Tourism
Laos Suspends Visas at Checkpoints Bordering China
Xayaboury set to become new transit hub
Travel company gets nod to assess proposed eco-tourism project in Vientiane
China’s Trip.com and Laos strengthen tourism cooperation

 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Vietnam, Laos step up legislative cooperation in 2020: Top legislator VietnamPlus 4th Feb 2020
Vietnam and Laos should step up the sharing of legislative experience and promote locality-to-locality collaboration in 2020 in addition to increasing the exchange of delegations at all levels, said a top legislator. National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan made the statement at a reception for newly-appointed Lao Ambassador to Vietnam Sengphet Houngboungnuang in Hanoi on February 4.

Lao exports to China continue to flow as normal: report Xinhua 4th Feb 2020
Lao exports to China continue to flow as normal despite the novel coronavirus outbreak in China, Lao news daily the Vientiane Times reported Tuesday. Laos has not received any impact reports yet from exporters since the start of the virus outbreak, according to the Import and Export Department of the Lao Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

Laos proud at achievements of Communist Party of Vietnam: Lao officials Nhan Dan 4th Feb 2020
Sounthone Sayachak, a member of the LPRP’s Central Committee and head of the LPRP Central Committee’s Commission for External Relations, made the comment when she led a delegation of the commission to visit the Vietnamese Embassy in Vientiane on February 3 to offer congratulations on the occasion of the 90th founding anniversary of the CPV (February 3, 1930 – 2020).

Thailand and Laos to meet next month work to boost bilateral trade The Star Online 27th Jan 2020
Thailand and Laos will hold a meeting on Feb 25-26 to promote cooperation in trade and investment. Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of Thailand’s Trade Negotiations Department, revealed that the meeting will be on a ministerial level between the Ministry of Commerce of Thailand and the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Laos in Bangkok.

National Affairs

Laos Establishes Committee to Inspect Safety of Nation’s Dams Radio Free Asia 3rd Mar 2020
The government of Laos has established a committee of local and foreign experts to inspect the safety of the nation’s dams, an official said Tuesday, as it forges ahead with plans to supply regional power despite several catastrophic accidents in recent years.

Laos’ Thongloun calls for better trained workforce, labour data improvement Phnom Penh Post 4th Feb 2020
Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has called for authorities in charge to speed up work to create a more highly skilled workforce to meet the growing needs of social and economic development. Thongloun gave the advice when speaking at the 8th meeting of the National Commission for Human Resource Development held in Vientiane on Wednesday, according to the Pasaxon newspaper.

New programme launched to strengthen the Rule of Law in Laos KPL 4th Feb 2020
A new three-year Legal Aid Support project was launched at a ceremony in Vientiane on January 24 to strengthen the Lao PDR’s rule of law. Minister of Justice Xaysi Santivong and U.S. Ambassador to the Lao PDR Rena Bitter witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that marks the beginning of the US$3.67 million programme, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development - USAID and the McConnell Foundation, a U.S.-based organization, and implemented by The Asia Foundation and the Ministry of Justice.

Vientiane People’s Council draws up plans for 2020 Asia News Network 30th Jan 2020
The socio-economic development plan for 2020 drawn up by the Vientiane People’s Council spotlights the need for more local and foreign businesses to invest in projects in the capital.

Market Development

U.S. Renews Partnership with Lao PDR to Build Capacity in UXO Sector KPL 4th Feb 2020
U.S. Ambassador to the Lao PDR Rena Bitter and Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Khampeng Xaysompeng witnessed on Jan 21 in Vientiane the signing of an MOU between the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) of Laos and Tetratech to support UXO capacity building programmes. As part of the United States’ support for the UXO sector, Tetratech plays a critical role in channeling the American people’s funds to strengthen our partnership with the Lao government organizations NRA and UXO Lao, said the US ambassador.

ASEAN

U.S. postpones summit with ASEAN leaders amid coronavirus fears: sources Reuters 29th Feb 2020
The United States has decided to postpone a meeting with leaders of Southeast Asian countries it had planned to host on March 14 due to worries about the coronavirus outbreak, two U.S. officials familiar with the matter said on Friday. President Donald Trump had invited leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to meet in Las Vegas after he did not attend a summit with the group in Bangkok in November. “As the international community works together to defeat the novel coronavirus, the United States, in consultation with ASEAN partners, has made the difficult decision to postpone the ASEAN leaders meeting,” one of the sources, a senior administration official, told Reuters. The official added that the United States values its relationships with ASEAN member nations and looks forward to future meetings.

US to reaffirm commitment to Asean in upcoming summit: Diplomats The Straits Times 25th Feb 2020
Eight Asean leaders will gather in Las Vegas on March 14 for the US-Asean summit. Diplomatic sources said that as of last Friday, the only leaders absent would be Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. But both are expected to send representatives - in the case of the Philippines, Foreign Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin Jr - the sources said. It is yet unknown whether Myanmar would be represented by President Win Myint or State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. Subsequently, Indonesian President Joko Widodo will travel to Washington to visit the White House.

ASEAN nations hit by data breaches, ransomware attacks and cryptojacking last year, Interpol says Illicit Trade News Network 20th Feb 2020
Southeast Asia experienced “significant” levels of cyber crime in 2019, including major data breaches, crippling ransomware attacks and a huge rise in cryptojacking, according to a new report from Interpol. In its ASEAN Cyberthreat Assessment 2020, the International law enforcement agency revealed that the region saw an increase in botnet,business email compromise (BEC) attacks, banking malware attacks crypto-ransomware and cryptojacking. The Interpol ASEAN Cybercrime Operations Desk concluded its report by vowing to enhance cyber crime intelligence for effective responses to cyber crime in the region, strengthen cooperation for joint operations against cyber crime, and develop regional capacity and capabilities to combat cyber crime.

Customs

Ministry imposes new charges on goods transiting through Laos Vientiane Times 4th Mar 2020
The Ministry of Finance will impose a new charge on so-called transit goods next month as the government seeks ways to benefit from Laos’ transformation from landlocked to a land bridge. The Lao National Gazette website last week published the amended Ministerial Decision on Transit Goods Charges, making this government regulation effective in the middle of next month. Under this amended ministerial decision, goods which businesses import for export purposes will be subject to the new rates.

Laos to increase coffee beans export in 2020 Xinhua 16th Jan 2020
The Bolaven Plateau Coffee Producers' Cooperative (CPC) based in Pakxong district, southern Laos' Champasak province, is aiming to export 64-65 containers of processed coffee beans worth 5 million U.S. dollars in 2020. This is a slight increase on last year's export target of 63 containers worth over 4.8 million U.S. dollars.

Laos to open Pang Mon border checkpoint Feb 1 Bangkok Post 26th Jan 2020
Laos will open the Pang Mon checkpoint in Sayaboury province opposite Thailand's Ban Huak checkpoint in Phu Sang district of this northern border province on Feb 1, provincial chamber of commerce adviser Kongsak Tharanit said on Saturday. Mr Kongsak said the Sayaboury provincial governor has sent a letter inviting the Chiang Rai governor to lead a 15-member Thai delegation from Chiang Kham and Phu Sang district to attend the opening ceremony. Kovit Chaimuang, a member of the Phayao Chamber of Commerce, said the new checkpoint will help promote trade, investment and tourism between the two countries.

Xekong on track to have first international border crossing with Vietnam Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 13th Jan 2020
The Prime Minister’s Office plans to upgrade the Daktaok local border crossing in Dakcheung district, Xekong province, to an international level crossing on the Vietnamese border. Lao and Vietnamese officials are currently discussing the date when this change will take place. If the status is elevated as planned, Daktaok will become Xekong’s first international border crossing, according to the province’s Information, Culture and Tourism Department. It is expected that the Pangmone border crossing will come into service as an international crossing point on February 1. If all goes to plan, it should enable more people to visit Xayaboury than in the past, according to the province’s deputy governor, Mr Phengvilan Khamphanpheng.

Defense & Security

New Arms Delivery Puts Russia-Laos Defense Ties in the Headlines The Diplomat 4th Feb 2020
Last week, Russia disclosed that it had delivered another round of tanks and armored vehicles to Laos. While some specifics still remain unclear, it nonetheless spotlighted some of the ongoing activity in the defense aspect of Russia-Laos ties as well as Moscow’s military activities in the Asia-Pacific more generally.

Economics

Laos: 600 use SME finance initiative Phnom Penh Post 4th Mar 2020
More than 600 businesses in Laos have received support from the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Access to Finance Project to develop their business and financial plans. The initiative uses an International Labour Organisation (ILO) tool called Laos In Business, which is being used in 11 provinces.

Rubber falls to second place in export value, despite rise in foreign sales Asia News Network 2nd Mar 2020
The export value of rubber from Laos has increased, while the market price of the commodity is also rising, meaning the commodity is enjoying renewed commercial success. Laos earned US$153.4 million from rubber exports in 2017, rising to US$168.1 million in 2018 and to almost US$217.5 million last year, according to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

Value of imports dips, trade deficit plummets in Laos Asia News Network 27th Feb 2020
The value of products imported by Laos declined slightly from US$5.8 billion in 2018 to US$5.7 billion last year, with construction equipment topping the list of more than 10 categories of imported goods. According to recent data compiled by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, the value of imports has increased year-on-year from 2013-19.

Commerce ministry in Laos takes new steps to ease business start-up Asia News Network 25th Feb 2020
The Enterprise Registration and Management Department, Ministry of Industry and Commerce, has eased the registration process for foreign investors, local entrepreneurs and those who want to start a new business in Laos. The department announced at a meeting held in Vientiane on Friday that the process of business registration will be made easier, with the aim of raising Laos’ global ranking in this regard to a two-digit ranking next year instead of three as at present.

Laos Clarifies Business Requirements for Vehicle Industry Laotian Times 10th Jan 2020
Laos has promulgated a new prime ministerial decree clarifying the import and export of vehicles, dealerships, and assembly plants as different types of business. According to the new decree, a company that wants to operate all three types of business must obtain three separate operating licences from the commerce ministry. In the past, some companies used a single business licence to enjoy other businesses, Vientiane Times reported.

Energy

Agreement signed for Nam Ngum dam 1 floating solar power project KPL 4th Mar 2020
February 19 witnessed the signing of a project development agreement (PDA) for a floating solar power project in Vientiane province. The agreement was signed in Vientiane Capital between Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment Khamchan Vongsenboune, Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines Sinava Souphanouvong, Director of Planning and Investment Department of Xaysomboun Province Chanthanom Vongsomchit, and President of Hangzhou Safefound Technology Co., Ltd Rui Zhao and Director of Lao PPA Accounting Consultancy and Auditing Sengthongphachan Sivongxay.

Laos improves dam safety amid surge in energy exports Asia News Network 2nd Mar 2020
The Ministry of Energy and Mines is putting in place measures and standards for dam safety even as the government works to boost electricity sales to its foreign trading partners. Electricity is considered a huge revenue earner for Laos, especially through sales to neighbouring countries and Asean states such as Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore.

Laos to Build World's Largest Floating Solar Power Project at Nam Ngum 1 Laotian Times 20th Feb 2020
A signing ceremony was held yesterday for the development of a floating solar power plant on the surface of the Nam Ngum 1 dam reservoir. The Floating Solar Power Project at Nam Ngum 1 will be a public-private partnership, with the Government of Laos holding a 20% share, while the private sector will hold 80% over a 25-year concession. The Project Development Agreement (PDA) was signed between Ms. Khamchan Vonseneboun, Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment, and Mr. Sinava Souphaouvong, Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines, and Mr. Chanthanome Vongsomchith, Head of The Xaysomboun Provincial Office of Planning and Investment, and the President of China’s Hangzhou Safefound Technology, along with Sengthongphachan Sivongxay, Director of Lao PPA Accounting Consultancy. The solar project at Nam Ngum 1 is to have an installed capacity of 1,200 MW, covering an area of over 1,500 hectares, making it potentially the world’s largest project upon completion. Floating solar, or photovoltaic floating (PVF), is a solar array that floats on a body of water. The solar panels are mounted on a buoyant frame to hold them above the surface of the water and are typically situated on relatively calmer water bodies such as rivers, lakes and human-made reservoirs.

Laos consults Mekong nations on proposed Luang Prabang dam/power plant The Star Online 10th Feb 2020
The Mekong River Commission (MRC) held a forum last week for Lao authorities to hold talks with other Mekong nations before going ahead with construction of the Luang Prabang hydropower project. Laos last year submitted the hydropower scheme – another dam in the lower Mekong basin – for the Prior Consultation process as required by the 1995 Mekong Agreement. The consultation process will continue until April. At the 9th Mekong River Regional Stakeholder Forum, which was held from February 5 to 6 in Luang Prabang, the Lao government presented details of the hydropower plant to representatives of Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand, civil society, academics, the private sector, and development partners, for comment.

Lao electricity exports increase 145% within 2016-2020 The Star Online 5th Feb 2020
From 2016 to 2020, Laos expanded electricity capacity to 6,457 MW for export markets, which represents an increase of 145 percent over the previous five-year period. Lao Ministry of Energy and Mines earned more than 130 billion Lao kip (over 14 million U.S. dollars), up 35 percent compared to 2011-2015. On the back of these results, the ministry is looking to implement its energy development strategy to meet increasing domestic supply and export demand.

Laos to export 20,000 MW of electricity by 2030 Daily Sun 16th Jan 2020
Laos’ electricity exports to neighboring countries and ASEAN states are expected to increase to about 20,000 megawatt (MW) between 2020 and 2030. Electricity is exported from Laos to ASEAN countries through Thailand by a transmission line. The power is first supplied to Malaysia and then sent through a Malaysian transmission line to Singapore, according to updated information on the Lao People’s Democratic Republic Trade Portal website. According to Lao Ministry of Energy and Mines, Laos will be able to generate about 20,000 MW of electricity from 2020-30. During this period, the Thai government expects to import about 9,000 MW of electricity from Laos, Cambodia about 6,000 MW, Vietnam about 5,000 MW, Myanmar about 300 MW and Malaysia about 300 MW.

Countries urge Laos to conduct dam impact studies Khmer Times 6th Feb 2020
Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam yesterday reiterated concerns over Laos’ proposed Luang Prabang hydropower dam project and urged the country to conduct more studies on potential environmental and social impacts. The proposed project would be built in Houygno village in the province, approximately 25 kilometres from Luang Prabang town and approximately 2,036 kilometres from the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, according to an MRC statement. The Lao government is aiming for the dam to produce 1,460 megawatts of electricity for export to Thailand and Vietnam. The project is expected to begin next year. Nearly 200 people representing Mekong river countries, civil society organisations, the academic community, the private sector and development partners are currently attending the 9th Regional Stakeholder Forum in Laos and the issue of the proposed dam project was discussed yesterday. Sok Bunheng, a representative of the Cambodian National Mekong Committee, yesterday during the forum said more hydro-meteorological data on social and environmental impacts before the project should continue. Mr Bunheng said these concerns are related to the impact the dam would have on safety and downstream water flow. Representatives of Vietnam said the Lao government should consider halting the project and instead focus on renewable energy to meet power demands.

Financial Services

BOL launches QR Code payment standard Asia News Network 30th Jan 2020
The Bank of the Lao PDR (BOL) had a soft launch of the Lao QR Code standard for payments on Wednesday to prompt the development of the standard and boost payment integration. The launch for the Lao QR Code standard for payments was held in Vientiane alongside a panel discussion on domestic payment systems. Governor of the Bank of the Lao PDR, Mr Sonexay Sithphaxay, along with representatives of commercial banks, financial institutions, Fintech, World Bank Group, UnionPay and the Bank of Thailand attended the event.

Food & Agriculture

Export roadmap carves out direction for Lao wood processing sector Asia News Network 28th Feb 2020
Wood products made in Laos will be able to leverage opportunities in both the regional and global markets under a planned export roadmap. A meeting to discuss the future of the Lao wood processing industry took place in Vientiane yesterday, attended by over 60 participants from the wood processing sector, representatives of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Ministry of Finance, European Union, and related parties.

Laos: Govt instructs ministries to devise measures to deal with bushfires, air pollution, unregulated burning of garbage The Japan News 20th Feb 2020
The government has instructed ministries to be on the alert and to devise plans and measures to address possible bushfires and unregulated garbage burning, given that such activities are a cause of air pollution. Under the supervision of government leaders, the Head of the Prime Minister’s Office, Phet Phomphiphak, signed a new administrative notice that instructs central and local authorities to instigate measures to control bushfires and the unregulated burning of garbage.

Mekong River Dams Disrupting Lives Of Southeast Asian Fishermen, Farmers Eurasia Review 20th Feb 2020
The Mekong is the world’s 12th-longest river, stretching 4,350 km (2,703 miles) through six nations before draining into the South China Sea. More than 60 million people depend on the Mekong and its tributaries for food, transport and water. Experts say it hosts 474 species of fish – the world’s most biodiverse after Brazil’s Amazon River. Thai farmers said their troubles on the river began when the turbines of the Xayaburi Dam started churning upstream from Nong Khai in Laos seven months ago, further disrupting the river flow that was already drying out even at the end of the rainy season.

Pork Prices Rising in Laos Due to 2019 African Swine Fever Epidemic and Natural Disasters Radio Free Asia 14th Feb 2020
Pork prices in Laos are rising sharply after the country was not spared in a regional African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak originating in China last year. According to the latest update from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, China has seen 165 ASF outbreaks in 32 provinces since August 2018 and more than a million pigs have been culled.

Livestock top earner among Laos’ agricultural exports Asia News Network 11th Feb 2020
Laos earned about US$227.7 million from livestock exports in 2019, while rubber exports amounted to around US$217.5 million and banana exports US$197.8 million, according to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. The value of cattle and buffalo exports in 2019 was double the figure for 2018, with the increase coming after the government allowed domestic and foreign entrepreneurs to invest in the sector.

EU, ITC team up with Lao PDR to improve food-safety, boost exports KPL 4th Feb 2020
A new project to improve food safety and plant health through better governance in the Lao PDR was announced on Jan 29 in Vientiane by the European Union, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and the International Trade Centre (ITC). The Systematic Mechanism for Safer Trade (SYMST) project will place focus on developing a model of export value chains for selected products and provinces and target markets will be implemented by ITC in partnership with MAF’s Department of Agriculture and its provincial offices.

FAO help train Laos officials on climate mapping, zoning The Star Online 4th Feb 2020
Laos government officials completed a three-week training course on advanced Geographic Information Systems, which was implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to enable them to undertake climate mapping and zoning. The training course, funded by the Global Environment Facility, covered spatial analysis, geo-databases, network analysis, 3D analysis, and climate modeling, local Vientiane Times daily reported on Tuesday (Feb 4).

FAO holds informal meeting in Laos to discuss future of food, agriculture Xinhua 28th Jan 2020
The future of food and agriculture was on top of the agenda for officials gathered here for the 35th Asia and the Pacific Regional Conference (APRC) Informal Country Consultation of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Monday. Lao Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Phouangparisak Pravongviengkham, and FAO Representative to the Lao People's Democratic Republic Nasar Hayat were joined by representatives from the government and civil society organizations to discuss the timely topics on food and agriculture ahead of the 35th Session of the Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific (APRC 35) in Thimphu, capital of Bhutan from Feb. 17 to Feb. 20, Lao News Agency (KPL) reported on Tuesday.

Quality crop ensures good income for Xieng Khuang coffee growers Borneo Bulletin Online 28th Jan 2020
Growers in Keoset cluster villages, a group of coffee producers in Khoun district of Lao PDR, earn 4,000 kip per kg of cherries and 40,000 kip per kg if they process the cherries and sell them as green coffee beans. Meanwhile, the price of coffee cherries in the south of Laos recently fell below 2,000 kip per kg.

Laos weighs on export of 100,000 tons rice to Cuba The Star Online 24th Jan 2020
Laos government has assigned Phan Phet Agriculture Development Co, Ltd. to carry out a feasibility study on the export of 100,000 tons of rice a year to Cuba, according to the website of the Laos Ministry of Industry and Commerce on Friday (Jan 24). The scheme was initiated by Laos Ministry of Industry and Commerce and other sectors when Cuba's Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment visited the company in September 2019, local daily Vientiane Times reported on Friday.

Lao-Chinese partnership to develop industry and agriculture in Savannakhet Vientiane Times 13th Jan 2020
Lao authorities and a Chinese company will survey and design an industry and agriculture development project in Xepon district, Savannakhet province. Sun Paper Holding Lao Co., Ltd. will provide a grant of more than 177 billion kip (US$20 million) to carry out the project on 800 hectares of land. Director of the Planning and Investment Department in Savannakhet province, Mr Valiya Sichanthongthip, and Director of Sun Paper Holding Lao Co., Ltd., Mr Chen Wen Jun, recently signed a Memorandum of Agreement on the project. Savannakhet provincial Governor, Mr Santiphab Phomvihane, attended the signing ceremony.

Health & Life Sciences

No Covid-19 case but Laos implements tough prevention measures The Star Online 4th Mar 2020
Health authorities have told state departments to consider suspending or postponing overseas working trips by their civil servants to countries where the Covid-19 has been reported, as the virus spreads further afield. Although there is still no confirmed case of the virus in Laos, the health authorities are taking no chances, and have impose several strict prevention measures.

JLK Inspection partners with Laos’ National TB Center and CHAI to expand access to TB screening MobiHealthNews 28th Feb 2020
Above image: UI Image of JLD-02K. Credit: JLK Inspection South Korea’s AI-based medical analysis solutions company, JLK Inspection, announced the recent signing of an agreement with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) in Lao PDR, a US based INGO to support the Lao PDR National TB Center (NTC) in strengthening and expanding access to tuberculosis screening via AI enabled CXR reading. CHAI is a global health organization committed to saving lives and reducing the burden of disease in low-and middle-income countries. The project between JLK Inspection, CHAI and NTC officially started in Lao PDR on 20 February 2020. JLK Inspection's "JLD-02K", an AI-based lung disease analysis solution, was officially selected as the partner by CHAI on behalf of the Lao PDR NTC in December 2019.

Reporters get facts on HPV vaccine programme Vientiane Times 26th Feb 2020
Media personnel from newspapers, radio and television gathered in Vientiane on Tuesday to discuss reporting on the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programme, which will be rolled out next month. The meeting was attended by the UNICEF Representative to Laos, along with senior ministry officials and invited guests. Participants discussed the HPV vaccine and its benefits for young women and girls in protecting them against pre-cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine is given to young girls to build immunity against the types of HPV that cause over 70 percent of cervical cancer and will be introduced in the national immunisation programme next month. Laos has been providing the HPV vaccine to girls to prevent them from getting infections that can lead to cervical cancer. The vaccine is very safe and very effective, and highly beneficial for young women. Director General of the Department of Hygiene and Health Promotion at the Ministry of Health, Dr Phonepaseuth Ounaphom, said the HPV vaccine will be given to girls at schools across the country. Vaccinations will be offered to over 360,000 girls aged 10-14, regardless of whether they are enrolled in school or have dropped out.

Complications From Diabetes An Increasing Concern J&C Lao 19th Feb 2020
Diabetic foot ulcers are the leading cause of non-traumatic amputations in people with diabetes and complications from the condition are becoming widespread in Laos and the region. Deputy Director General of Vientiane’s Setthathirath Hospital, Dr Bounmy Somsamouth, spoke about the condition at a workshop on the care and treatment of diabetic foot ulcers. He said it was imperative that ulcers be treated to keep people in good health, ensure their quality of life, and reduce the number of amputations. This requires highly qualified medical staff. From 2014 to 2019, the number of diabetics was recorded at 14,458, while 82 people had diabetic foot ulcers.

U.S. Provides Personal Protective Equipment to Lao PDR in Response to Coronavirus Outbreak USAID 10th Feb 2020
U.S. Ambassador to Lao PDR, Dr. Peter M. Haymond handed over personal protective equipment to Dr. Phouthone Muoangpak, Vice Minister of Health, at a ceremony in Vientiane today as part of the United States’ early assistance to Lao PDR to prepare for any potential spread of the novel coronavirus. The equipment, donated by the United States through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), includes 440 protective goggles, 1,500 surgical gowns, and 220 face shields, along with biohazard disposal bags, aprons, N95 face masks, safety boxes, gloves, and hand sanitizer supplies. This equipment will be distributed to regional centers and provinces in greatest need of the supplies.

Laos Stays Corona-free, but Virus Shakes Travel Trade Destination Thailand News 6th Feb 2020
Laos, China’s southern neighbour, continues to fend off the coronavirus, with no reported cases, due largely to a quick government response. Meanwhile, the country’s tourism and hospitality sector is feeling the pinch from widespread global fears. According to Luang Prabang View General Manager John Morris Williams, hotels in the UNESCO World Heritage city are reporting cancellations of up to 40% of their bookings for early 2020, due to the virus scare, especially from European customers.

No coronavirus in Laos, tests done at ministry lab confirm Vientiane Times 4th Feb 2020
Health officials have confirmed that 13 people with symptoms of the new coronavirus (nCoV) have tested negative for the virus at the National Centre for Laboratory and Epidemiology, run by the Ministry of Health. Eleven of the people tested were Lao and examination of their blood samples gave negative results. The other two, who were Chinese, also tested negative for the virus but are being monitored at the Centre.

Laos establishes specialised committee for fighting nCoV VietnamPlus 4th Feb 2020
The Lao Prime Minister on February 3 decided to set up a committee specialised on fighting the acute respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus (nCoV), in response to the complicated development of the disease. Under the decision, Lao Deputy PM and Finance Minister Somdy Duangdy and Health Minister Bounthong Sihavong are the head and deputy head of the committee, respectively.

Why Laos Has Not Reported Any Coronavirus Cases Laotian Times 4th Feb 2020
Laos, officially at least, remains free of the new coronavirus. A Laos-shaped imprint stands out stark and white against a sea of red on any map of the pandemic. And yet many within the country question the authenticity of this claim.

Laos Steps Up Efforts to Prevent Coronavirus Outbreak Laotian Times 30th Jan 2020
Laos has announced that it will set up a task force committee to tackle the spread of the new coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China. The task force will assess the impact of an outbreak of such a virus in Laos, although no case has yet been confirmed in the country.

ICT

Laos Launches QR Code Payment Standard Laotian Times 3rd Feb 2020
The Bank of Lao PDR has launched a Lao QR Code standard for electronic payments in a move to improve payment services and integration between banks. The QR code standard will comply with the finance and currency sector’s strategic plan and minimize the use of cash, driving the onset of a digital economy and boosting socio-economic development, the BOL Governor Sonexay Sithphaxay said at the launching ceremony, as quoted by Xinhua News Agency.

Infrastructure

Mekong nations, China push for more trade, investment, connectivity Vientiane Times 21st Feb 2020
The six Mekong-Lancang Cooperation (MLC) countries agreed on the need to elevate their cooperation from rapid-expansion to a comprehensive stage as their foreign ministers met in Vientiane on Thursday. The ministers reaffirmed the need to further enhance regional connectivity by jointly promoting the MLC Economic Development Belt and to explore the possibility of synergising the MLC Plan of Action on Connectivity with global transport infrastructure – the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Master Plan on Asean Connectivity (MPAC) 2025, and the Asean-China New Western Land-Sea Corridor. This would enable quality economic development and industrial integration as well as promoting supply chain efficiency in the Mekong region.

Work on Vientiane Expressway No. 1 Project begins Asia News Network 21st Feb 2020
Construction of the mega Vientiane Expressway No. 1 officially began yesterday, with the project aiming to ease traffic congestion and respond to economic growth in the Lao capital. A groundbreaking ceremony was held on February 20 at the Thatluang Marsh Specific Economic Zone in Xaysettha district, which is the starting point of the road. It ends in the Dongmarkkhai area and will covers a distance of 15.3 km. The build-operate-transfer (BOT) expressway is funded by the privately-owned Vientiane Expressway No. 1 Sole Co., Ltd., with a 50 year concession starting from the completion of construction. The road is expected to be finished within 24 months.

Laos granted multimillion-dollar projects via Mekong-Lancang cooperation Asia News Network 20th Feb 2020
Laos has benefited from multimillion-dollar cooperation projects carried out under the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation (MLC) framework, according to an official report. The projects have contributed significantly to poverty alleviation, narrowing the development gap and boosting Laos’ capability for regional integration through capacity building, according to the report from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Some 138 projects were approved, securing finance from the special fund in 2018. They included 21 projects amounting to more than US$4.5 million proposed by Laos. MLC cooperation focuses on key five areas - water resource management, agriculture development and poverty alleviation, connectivity and integration, capacity building in production, and cross border trade.

Lao Official Urges Clarity in Hiring of Lao Workers for China Railway Project Laotian Times 19th Feb 2020
A senior Lao government official has urged better management of the recruitment process of Lao workers and information about the jobs available for the construction of the Laos-China railway to ensure workers’ rights. Lao Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Dr. Khampheng Saysompheng said last week provincial departments, district authorities, and labor recruitment agencies should work closely together to publicize job vacancies and prepare workers for the construction of the railway, Vientiane Times reported.According to project reports, about 16,000 people are employed in the construction of the railway, of whom about 4,500 are Lao nationals.

EDL, Japan raise awareness of dam safety issues Asia News Network 19th Feb 2020
Electricite du Laos (EDL) is working with the Japan Electric Power Information Centre (JEPIC) to ensure dam safety in Laos. A seminar on the topic took place on Friday, chaired by the Deputy Managing General of EDL, Mr Komonchanh Phetasa, and a representative of JEPIC, Mr Hiroshi Murashige. The meeting was attended by 66 Japanese experts and EDL staff and management. The seminar was very important in informing staff about the issues involved in dam safety. Such information is important for EDL for the protection of dams, other property and the safety of local residents, Electricite du Laos reported on Monday.

Luang Namtha to Become New Regional Transport Hub Laotian Times 17th Feb 2020
Laos’s northern province of Luang Namtha is poised to become a regional transport hub with investment in a dry port, leveraging its strategic location. The province is expected to serve as a prime site for an international trade center for the country after the construction of a 414-km railway from China into Laos at the Boten border checkpoint is complete. The USD 5.986 billion construction project, which began in 2015, is set for completion at the end of 2021.

WB supports Laos in disaster reconstruction, resilience Xinhua 29th Jan 2020
The Lao Ministry of Finance and the World Bank signed a financing agreement of 50 million U.S. dollars on Tuesday, extending support to the ongoing Lao People's Democratic Republic Southeast Asia Disaster Risk Management Project and Lao Road Sector Project II. Bounchom Ubonpaseuth, Lao Deputy Minister of Finance, and Nicola Pontara, World Bank Country Manager for Laos, signed the agreement in Lao capital Vientiane, a WB press release said.

World Bank approves $50 million for disaster management in Laos The Phnom Penh Post 29th Jan 2020
The Lao Ministry of Finance and the World Bank on Tuesday signed a Financing Agreement of $50 million extending support to the ongoing Lao PDR Southeast Asia Disaster Risk Management Project and Lao Road Sector Project II. Deputy Minister of Finance Bounchom Ubonpaseuth and the World Bank’s Country Manager for the Lao PDR Nicola Pontara signed the agreement, witnessed by Deputy Minister of Public Works and Transport Viengsavath Siphandone and other government officials. A total of $25 million will improve the capacity of the Lao government to better prepare for and withstand natural disasters in waterways. Another amount of $25 million will support repairs to damaged roads and the resilience of road infrastructure.

Laos to review progress of smart city scheme Asia News Network 21st Jan 2020
The Lao government is expected to kickstart the planned construction of ‘Amata Smart and Eco City’ in Luang Namtha and Oudomxay provinces after a project agreement was signed in 2018. A memorandum of understanding on a feasibility study of the development of a smart city was signed by the government and Thailand’s Amata Corporation. The project area covers 70 sq km which the company plans to enlarge to 200 sq km. At a recent meeting on the development and management of special and specific economic zones (SEZs), Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Planning and Investment, Dr Sonexay Siphandone, called upon officials in charge to get the project under way. The call was made after several planned projects were not implemented in accordance with the signed agreements, mainly due to a lack of funding.

China’s rail network opens up transport links in Laos The Star Online 20th Jan 2020
The under construction Laos-China railway is the biggest development project taking place in Laos and is a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The main benefit for Laos is that it will spur the country’s transformation from being landlocked to a land-linked country. The railway will form part of the planned regional rail route linking China’s Yunnan province to Singapore via Laos, Thailand and Malaysia. Lao and Chinese authorities aim to complete construction of the 414-km railway linking Vientiane to the Chinese border by December 2021, to mark the 46th anniversary of the founding of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic on Dec 2. About 95 per cent of the total land required for the railway has been handed over to Chinese contractors. As of this month, 83 per cent of the structural engineering work is complete, according to project officials.

Thailand provides 1.38 billion baht to Laos for construction of new bridge Asia News Network 20th Jan 2020
The Lao government believes that the planned fifth Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River, linking Bung Kan province in Thailand and Pakxan district in Borikhamxay province, will greatly facilitate regional transport and trade. Because of its significance for regional economic development, the Lao side of the bridge has received funding support from Thailand through the Neighbouring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency (NEDA), amounting to over 1.38 billion baht (over 414 billion kip). An agreement on financing for the bridge was signed in Vientiane on Friday by Deputy Minister of Finance Mr Bounchom Ubonpaseuth and NEDA President Mr Perames Vudthitornetiraks.

Understanding China's BRI in Laos The Business Times 13th Jan 2020
Upon his visit to Laos in November 2017, Xi Jinping wrote in an open letter, published in English and Lao in Laotian mainstream media, that “there is a high degree of complementarity between China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the strategy of Laos to transform itself from a landlocked to a land-linked country.” 

Malaysia

Tourism Malaysia strengthens ties with Laos to boost arrivals The Star Online 9th Mar 2020
In a bid to intensify promotions to the Asean market, Tourism Malaysia on Wednesday (March 4) launched the “Malaysia Tourism Seminar and B2B Session” as part of the Malaysia Golden Month Holiday Campaign to promote Malaysia, at the Landmark Hotel in Vientiane. Tourism Malaysia led the delegation comprising AirAsia, product owners namely Vouk Hotel Management, Sunway Lost World and Sunway Lagoon; as well as travel agencies from Columbia Leisure and Asia Delights to represent the Malaysian tourism industry. More than 100 local delegates from travel agents, associations and members of the media from Vientiane showed support and attended the session.

Travel & Tourism

Laos Suspends Visas at Checkpoints Bordering China Laotian Times 2nd Feb 2020
The Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a notice to all checkpoints bordering China to temporarily suspend the issuance of tourist visas to those entering the Lao PDR from China. The notice reads, “due to the outbreak of the new Coronavirus originating in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, which has spread rapidly across China and other nations, causing widespread illness and death, in order to protect our nation from the threat of this virus, the consular department instructs all international checkpoints bordering China to temporarily suspend the issuance of tourist visas for entry into the Lao PDR for all visitors wishing to travel from China, commencing 2 February 2020 until further notice.”

Xayaboury set to become new transit hub Asia News Network 31st Jan 2020
Xayaboury province is becoming a major transit hub for international tour-ists after the government upgraded a border crossing with Thailand to inter-national level, according to a senior provincial official.

Travel company gets nod to assess proposed eco-tourism project in Vientiane Asia News Network 31st Jan 2020
Vientiane may soon have an eco-tourism venture after the government authorised the Green Adventure Travel Company Limited to conduct a survey and feasibility study of a proposed project.

China’s Trip.com and Laos strengthen tourism cooperation TTG Asia 14th Jan 2020
Trip.com Group CEO Jane Sun and the Lao minister of information, culture, and tourism Kikeo Khaykhamphithoune convened in December to discuss cooperation possibilities in tourism, including the streamlining of visa applications and cultural exchange projects, to drive tourism traffic between the two lands.