Laos reopens some local border crossings to revive economy; world Bank provides loan due to Covid-19 woes

VIENTIANE, Oct 27 (Vientiane/ANN): The Lao government is temporarily reopening some local and customary border crossings in a bid to revive the economy and mitigate the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The move is part of the government efforts to balance the measures containing the virus with the easing of restrictions enabling businesses to import and export goods.

The lifting of certain restrictions would allow improved cross-border trade between four provinces in Laos and neighboring countries.

The four border crossings included the Nongmar customary border crossing in Khammuan province, Ban Vang local border crossing in Vientiane province, Thasa-ath customary border crossing in Borikhamxay province, and the Panghay local border crossing in Luang Namtha province.

The Panghay border crossing will reopen from Nov 1 until June 30, 2021, to aid trade between Laos and China.

However, importers and exporters must comply with all the measures relevant to the transport of goods laid down by authorities in Laos and China, to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

In Borikhamxay, the reopening of the Thasa-ath border crossing which was approved by the Prime Minister's Office on Oct. 14 will enable the import of materials and equipment needed for construction of the Nam Theun 1 hydropower plant. The crossing will be closed after the necessary equipment enters Laos.

The remaining traditional and local border crossings remain closed, except those permitted to open for the transport of goods.

Goods are mainly imported and exported through international border crossings which are equipped with the necessary facilities and personnel to screen and identify anyone carrying the Covif-19 virus.

To date, 24 cases of the virus have been confirmed in Laos with the most recent being a Lao national who returned to Laos from Russia and tested positive for the virus on last Tuesday.

Laos detected its first two Covid-19 cases on March 24.

Meanwhile, the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors last week approved US$40 million in emergency finance support for small and medium-sized businesses in Laos to help them recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, the bank said in a press release.

The funding will be channelled through the World Bank’s ‘Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise Access to Finance Emergency Support and Recovery Project,’ which will work with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and local financial institutions to provide credit to small businesses struggling to cope with the economic slowdown brought on by Covid-19.

Small companies will have the chance to secure working capital loans that can sustain their businesses during the pandemic and initial recovery period, or investment loans for new equipment or expansion of facilities.

Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) are the foundation of the Lao economy, accounting for 82 percent of total employment.

Such companies have been significantly disrupted by the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, with many facing sharp reductions in demand and income, as well as interrupted supply chains.

Tourism came to a near standstill in the second quarter of 2020, while a lockdown in April and May limited demand for various services and halted production at many firms.

As a result, many firms expect to lay off a large percentage of their workforce while half of all businesses report that they will have to close permanently.

“This new project will help MSMEs to stay in business, protect the livelihoods of employees, and soften the socio-economic disruptions caused by Covid-19,” said Mariam Sherman, World Bank Country Director for Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.

“These activities build on and continue the work undertaken by the Small and Medium Enterprise Access to Finance Project, which has been successfully supporting loans to Lao firms since 2014.” - The Vientiane Times/Asian News Network
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Laos , Borders , Opening Up , Kick Start , Pandemic-Hit , economy


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