Vietnamese investment eyes hopeful Lao future despite recent setbacks

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Laos and Vietnam are continuing to cooperate on future investment projects in Laos in spite of a recent slowdown compared to previous years.

One of the major projects is the construction of the Nongkhang airport in Xamneua district, Huaphan province; the Laos-Vietnam Cooperation Committee told the planning and investment sector meeting in Vientiane on Monday.

The contractor had hoped construction would be completed by the end of this year, but this is unlikely due to financial reasons, an official in-charge told Vientiane Times.

Vietnamese Hoang Anh Gia Lai Joint Stock Company (HAGL) began the construction of the airport at the end of 2014 but had to suspend work in 2015 when it ran into financial trouble.

The airstrip was scheduled for completion at the end of 2016 and originally given the green light in June 2013 when the government, represented by the Department of Civil Aviation, signed a contract worth more than US$74 million with HAGL.

After work was suspended, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport extended the agreement with the company from December 20, 2017, to June 2019.

When it becomes operational, the airport will be able to accommodate aircraft with 70 to 100 seats, such as the ATR72, bringing more visitors to the province.

Laos’ main airports are Wattay International Airport in Vientiane and airports in Luang Prabang, Oudomxay, Savannakhet, Champassak, and Bokeo provinces.

The sector meeting heard that to push trade and investment of both nations for socio-economic development, the Lao and Vietnamese governments should further boost coordination and cooperation in every sector, especially political relations. They should also enhance ties in the education and public health sectors.

They should pay more heed to memorandums of understanding on public works and the transportation sector and further seek and promote the implementation of the Vientiane-Hanoi Expressway and hydropower development projects, electricity grid connections and electricity trading schemes between Laos and Vietnam.

Both sides should also boost technical and financial assistance so that public and private sector projects are more effective.

Authorities expect that by next year the Vietnamese government will offer around 1,213 scholarships for long and short-term programmes to Lao students.

Total grants of the Vietnamese government to Laos are also expected to be of over 900 billion dong or US$40 million.

These would be arranged to complete and continue projects and document preparation projects, which focus on strategy and cooperation in Huaphan, Xieng Khuang, and Xaysomboun provinces.

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