Lao authorities admit that six sectors of Laos' economy, especially the foreign investment, export and tourism sectors, have been gravely affected by the global financial crisis. The admission came from Mr. Thongloun Sisoulith, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, in a recent speech addressing media roles in the global financial crisis.
The six affected sectors include foreign investment, exports, tourism, employment , government revenues and foreign aid, with the first three sectors being the most seriously affected as they involve foreign countries. As those countries face economic hardship because of the global economic slump, Laos too is inevitably being affected. In the foreign investment sector, for example,developers of the Nam Nguem III dam project and other hydropower projects have announced that they have suspended their projects due to difficulty in obtaining loans to fund their investment projects.
Similarly, Laos experienced a drop of over 200,000 tourists in 2008, compared to the previous year, resulting in a reduction of almost 15% in revenues from the tourism sector. And that has led to a sharp reduction in the number of tourists forecast to visit Laos in 2009, since the majority of tourists visiting Laos in recent years came mainly from fellow ASEAN member nations, which are also facing serious economic and financial crisis.
Likewise, as Laos sends its exports – mainly agricultural and mining products as well as garments, to markets in the European Union and United States, it is believed that Laos' exports this year will decrease sharply too. Such reduction in this sector is already shown in the export of copper, which has seen its price in the global market drop more than 50%.
However, Lao authorities believe that they will be able to overcome this challenging situation as they expect to receive more foreign aid this year, in the amount of no less than $253 million. But our VOA-Bangkok stringer says whether or not the Lao government will receive increased foreign assistance depends on the acceptance by the international community of its management of the country, a fact recognized by Lao officials who have come to realize that one condition that will lead to increase international acceptance of their country is its protection of human rights. In his speech, Deputy Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith said,
"By recognizing the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, including all international conventions on human rights, the Lao PDR will continue to cooperate with the international community in promoting regional and international peace, stability and security, promoting increased engagement and development cooperation among nations on the basis of the U.N. Charter and international laws to bring peace, friendship, civilization and justice to the human society in the 21st century, ensuring human rights and basic freedoms to all humans."
Singrit PonNgern reported from Bangkok.(English translation by Buasawan Simmala and Dara Baccam)
For details in Lao, listen to our audio files.