Mekong Memo Laos Weekly: Business, politics, finance, trade & legal news.
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Here is your Mekong Memo Laos for the week of January 17, 2024. Click on the link of our sponsor above, pay for a subscription, share with a friend or hit that reply button and tell us what you think.
Twin Tests in Debt and Diplomacy
Laos is reining in its soaring public debt, which reached 112% of GDP, by implementing tighter borrowing oversight and making improvements to revenue collection. These efforts will be important to mitigate the risks associated with rapid economic growth and heavy (over?)investment in industries like mining and hydropower. Meanwhile, as 2024 ASEAN chair, Laos faces delicate diplomacy, particularly balancing its heavy debt reliance on China with its regional role. (Also see next article)
Laos Faces Challenges as ASEAN Chair
Laos, as the 2024 ASEAN will likely struggle with major challenges like Myanmar's civil war and South China Sea disputes. Despite institutional weaknesses, Laos is expected to contribute to the bloc's economic connectivity and digital initiatives. The country's approach, influenced by its economic ties and indebtedness to China, will likely stress neutrality on contentious issues, while pushing forward on issues of economic interconnectivity and ASEAN's digital economy framework.
Read more: Stratfor Worldview
South Korea Raises Travel Alert to Highest Level for Golden Triangle
Citing increased criminal activity, South Korea has set a Level 4 “no-go” travel alert, barring citizens from the notorious Golden Triangle region in Laos starting February 1. This area, known for trafficking, scams and other illicit activity, has particularly affected South Korean nationals. Six-month travel bans were also extended to eight other countries and six regions with security and terrorism risks, including Somalia, Afghanistan, and parts of the Philippines.
Read more: Laotian Times
Swiss Reinforce Commitment to Job Training
Switzerland has successfully wrapped up the first phase of their Vocational Training and Employment Support Services project in Laos, to the benefit of more than 3,500 youth. The project, funded by the Swiss government, included vocational training, employment support, and business start-up support. Phase 2 now expects to build on this impact, addressing local labor needs and expanding to include Vientiane district.
Read more: The Star
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