The Ministry of Planning and Investment of the Lao PDR reports that for the past three years, that is from 2005 to 2007, the government approved some 505 foreign investment projects, worth more than 5,080 million dollars.
Foreign investments continue to increase this year with 92 more projects approved in the first eight months of 2008, at an aggregate value of more than 359 million dollars, mostly in the fields of energy, mining, and economic crop plantation.
Mining is the sector that is bringing the fastest returns. Thanks to rising gold, copper and silver prices on the world markets, Laos stands to benefit more from the mining concessions granted to Australia's Oxiana Resources and Pan-Australia. Oxiana says it expects Laos to receive some 2 billion dollars in revenues from its Sepone copper exports between now and 2020, and that excludes its shares from Pan-Australia's Phou Bia's gold mines.
So far, Laos has approved 181 mining projects by a total of 118 companies, 74 of which are foreign ones that will undertake 101 projects. The Lao government reportedly plans to approve more than ten projects between now and 2010. The majority of those projects will be bauxite and aluminum exploration and mining in Champassack and Attapeu provinces.
The Lao government has said it will use the money from all these concessions to fund its efforts to improve the life of its people. But currently the Lao people are not benefitting but are suffering from those concessions, because of relocation and loss of their livelihood. Furthermore, some critics say foreign investments have not created enough jobs for local people because foreign investors tend to bring in workers from their own countries.
Listen to Songrit's report for more details in Lao.