General & Misc

Parliament to debate Economic Plan Next Week

Date: 14 November 2018; Type: Legal News; Source: Vientiane Times

The National Assembly will kick off its sixth ordinary session next Tuesday to review the implementation of the 2018 socio-economic development plan and budget plan.

The session comes at a time of financial hardship that has seen a slowdown in economic growth in recent years.

The biannual session, scheduled to run from November 20 - December 21, will also debate next year’s socio-economic development plan and budget plan along with a discussion of measures aimed at pursuing growth targets.

The annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth target, set at 7 percent until 2020, has become increasingly ambitious in view of a number of challenges that have seen growth slowing over the last few years.

The National Economic Research Institute (NERI) forecasts that Laos will witness GDP growth of about 6.5 percent this year, down from 6.9 percent last year.

The biggest challenges are the result of ongoing budget deficits that have driven public debt up to more than 60 percent of GDP, meaning Laos struggles to repay its debts.

This year’s widespread flood damage to infrastructure and property in all provinces has exacerbated the difficulties, NERI suggested.

Analysts have also suggested that budgetary tensions which forced the government to be more thrifty in state expenditure, and its limited ability to repay debt which affected the businesses involved, could also impact on economic performance and job creation.

The government’s decision to halt construction of hydropower projects in order to review safety standards following the deadly collapse of the dam in Atttapeu province in July might also undermine growth targets in construction and related sectors, economists said.

Members of parliament are expected to debate measures to mitigate and overcome the economic challenges facing Laos.

They will explore measures to diversify the economy so that growth is not so dependent on natural resources and public spending, neither of which is economically or environmentally sustainable.

Although the government, headed by Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, has intensified efforts to improve the business environment so as to lure foreign investment and promote production-based industry, such efforts appear to have not yet yielded any fruit.

Laos’ ease-of-doing-business (EDB) ranking has fallen for the last three consecutive years - from 139th to 141st and then to 154th this year - according to the World Bank’s latest annual EDB ranking index which surveys 190 economies worldwide.

According to traditional practice, members of parliament are expected to track the progress the government has made in realising measures to drive economic growth. This includes measures to improve the EDB.

The government cabinet said in its monthly meeting earlier this week that it would report on ways to address the chronic issue of poor quality, excessive cost and slow progress of road construction at the next parliamentary session.

Previous reports suggest the state has lost as much as one trillion kip due to overvalued state investment projects, including those related to infrastructure.

Reports on healthcare, poverty alleviation and inspection of the audited budget for the fiscal year 2015-16 will also be presented to Assembly members for debate.

Members will also debate several newly-drafted laws and amendments to existing laws.

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