Mekong Memo Laos Weekly: Business, politics, finance, trade & legal news.
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Here is your Mekong Memo Laos for the week of November 22, 2023. Click on the link of our sponsor above, pay for a subscription, share with a friend or bang on that reply button and tell us what you think.
Persistent Trade Gap Clouds Economic Future
Laos has experienced its seventh consecutive month of trade deficit, with a total trade value of US$985 million, including US$625 million in imports and US$361 million in exports. Key exports include rare earth metals, bananas, and sugar, while significant imports are diesel, vehicles, and paper products. China, Vietnam, and Thailand are major trade partners. Economic growth in Laos continues to be impacted by challenges in China, high public debt, and a weak local currency, leading to a revised lower growth forecast by the Asian Development Bank.
Read more: Laotian Times
Renewables Powering Up for Regional Electricity Dominance
The nation is advancing in renewable energy with developments in wind and hydropower. The installation of the first turbine at the 600-MW Monsoon wind project is a notable event, enabling power transmission to Vietnam. Laos is also boosting electricity exports, supported by 94 power plants, including 81 hydroelectric facilities. Mega First Corp Bhd's investment in the Don Sahong hydropower project is part of this trend. A feasibility study for a wind farm in Savannakhet province, potentially one of the largest in the region, is in progress, supporting the Lao strategy of becoming a significant electricity provider in Southeast Asia.
Diplomatic Roundup: Russia, Cambodia, Vietnam, DPRK, Germany
Laos and Cambodia are boosting infrastructure and trade ties, while Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia are preparing for a border defense friendship exchange.
Germany has provided Laos with over 24 million euros for rural development and vocational education, reflecting a continued partnership in sustainable economic development.
Read more: (same links as in-line, above) Laotian Times (Laos-Russia Trade), Laotian Times (Russia-Laos Military Relations), Phnom Penh Post (Laos-Cambodia Ties), VietnamPlus (Border Defense Exchange), The Star (Laos-North Korea Relations), Prensa Latina (Laos-DPRK Relations), The Star (Germany's Aid to Laos)
Noose Tightens on Cryptocurrency Operations
A crackdown on cryptocurrency firms that are non-compliant or inactive remains ongoing. The government, having approved 15 companies for digital asset businesses, is now facing issues with several firms lagging in fee payments, totaling USD 20 million. In response, the Prime Minister has announced a 50% reduction in outstanding fees to expedite payments, with full settlement expected by the end of 2023. The government is prepared to suspend, fine, or revoke licenses of firms failing to comply, and state-run Electricite du Laos has ceased supplying electricity to crypto mining operations due to unpaid debts.
Read more: Laotian Times
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