VIENTIANE (Xinhua): Economists and lawmakers have urged the Lao government to capitalise on the benefits offered by the China-Laos railway to boost economic growth, while doing more to lower the inflation rate.
With the railway attracting the attention of foreign visitors and investors, the government needs to expedite the vaccination programme and reopen the country to minimise the damaging impacts of the pandemic on the economy, local daily Vientiane Times reported on Friday.
The Lao government has set a target for gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 4% and an inflation rate of 5-7% for the year 2022.
However, Chairman of the National Assembly's Planning, Finance and Audit Committee and senior economist Leeber Leebouapao told the ongoing National Assembly session that the government needed to review these figures.
"In principle, GDP growth must be higher than the inflation rate to reflect a positive trend in national development. If inflation is higher than the GDP, it could mean no growth," he said.
NA member and vice-president of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry Valy Vetsapong said the GDP could increase by 4.5%, but the government needed to do more to develop the service sector.
"The service sector is not only about tourism, it also includes SMEs, which can generate more jobs and income for the government through taxes," she said.
"Many people around the world are talking about the China-Laos railway, which will convert Laos from being geographically disadvantaged by taking advantage of its location and becoming a regional land-linked hub," Valy added.
She said Lao entrepreneurs have suffered from high transport costs for years, but these challenges will be resolved when the China-Laos railway becomes operational in December 2021.
"One of the most important things for the government at present is to speed up vaccination, immunise 80-90% of the population and reopen the country," Valy said.
"However, the reopening of borders needs to be well regulated to attract investors and visitors while also complying with Covid-19 guidelines."