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Here is your Mekong Memo Laos for the week of October 25, 2023:
Laos Grapples with Economic Strains Amid High Inflation
Despite a slight dip in inflation rates, Laos continues to face significant economic challenges, with many families cutting back on essential expenses. The depreciation of the Lao currency, coupled with rising fuel prices, has exacerbated the cost of living. Government efforts to mitigate these challenges include introducing allowances for low-wage civil servants, selling household staples at reduced prices, and collaborating with local companies to offer consumer items at lower rates. However, the impact of these measures on the overall economic situation remains to be seen.
Laos' ImpEx: A Three-Phase Strategy
In an attempt to boost the economy, the Lao Ministry of Industry and Commerce has unveiled a comprehensive three-phase plan to enhance the import-export process at its land ports. Immediate actions target fee structures and crossing management, while mid-term goals focus on revising decrees and unifying principles. By 2024's end, the emphasis will shift to fostering ideal management conditions and fortifying international transport agreements.
Read more: Laotian Times
Railway Training College Launches
Vientiane recently witnessed the inauguration of the Lao railway vocational technical college, a first-of-its-kind institution in Laos. Situated in the capital, the college is designed to train personnel for the China-Laos Railway. Funded by a grant from the Chinese government, the college spans 14 hectares and boasts state-of-the-art facilities. The curriculum, delivered by both Chinese and Lao educators, covers a range of railway operations. This initiative marks a significant advance in the nation's railway expertise and infrastructure.
GSM's Electric Leap into Lao EV Market
Vietnam's Green and Smart Mobility JSC. (GSM) is making significant strides in the electric vehicle sector. In a recent move, GSM has imported 150 VinFast electric cars into the Lao market. This decision is in line with their preparation to launch an electric taxi service in Laos. This marks GSM's first major global expansion, showcasing a commitment to promoting green and smart transportation solutions in Southeast Asia.
Green Light for Barite
Central Laos' Khammuan province is delving into the world of barite, awarding a local company the rights to explore and mine in Bualapha district. This mineral, known for its high density and chemical inertness, is a staple in industries ranging from oil drilling to medical imaging. With an investment of $1.5 million, the company is positioning itself to meet the consistent global demand for barite. This initiative aligns with the Lao government's vision of fostering an open investment environment and managing the economic resources of the county for development.
Read more: Xinhua
Laos Faces Teacher Exodus Amid Economic Strain
A significant number of volunteer teachers in Laos are resigning due to bleak job prospects and economic challenges. At least 41 teachers have recently left their positions in northeastern Laos, exacerbating staff shortages in schools. Despite over 7,600 volunteer teachers nationwide, the government's budget constraints allow for hiring fewer than 1,000 annually. Many educators, hoping for salaried positions, work voluntarily, but the current economic situation, marked by high inflation, is pushing them to seek alternative employment. This trend threatens the quality of education and has led to school consolidations and closures.
Read more: Radio Free Asia
Gov’t Champions Domestic Production to Counter Inflation
In a bid to shore up the economy and combat rising inflation, the government is prioritizing domestic production over imports, especially in the agricultural sector. Despite a slight dip in inflation rates, the depreciation of the Lao kip, has been a significant factor, given that a third of goods used for price calculations are imported. Challenges like high production costs, unappealing packaging, and inadequate market research hinder local products. Initiatives like marketing campaigns, quality checks, and partnerships aim to elevate Lao products to international standards and enhance domestic and foreign market acceptance.
Read more: China.org.cn
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