VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/Asia News Network): Laos and China will host events on Saturday (Dec 30) to mark the first anniversary of the Laos-China Railway, one of the key drivers of economic growth in Laos.
Inaugurated on Dec 3, 2021, the railway connects Vientiane with Kunming in southwest China’s Yunnan province over a distance of 1,035km.
During the first year of operation, the railway has sparked a surge in exports and helped to revive tourism, meeting the increasing need for travel between Vientiane and the northern provinces.
According to Xinhua, to date the Lao section of the China-Laos Railway has shipped around 2 million tonnes of goods, most of which are cross-border goods, and has carried 1.26 million passengers.
Director of Operations at the Laos-China Railway Co., Ltd., Du Zhigang, was quoted in Xinhua recently as saying that the amount of freight transported has increased steadily since the railway came into operation.
Goods shipped by rail from Laos include rubber, barley, rice, cassava, coffee, beer, minerals and potash, among others, while general consumer goods, machinery parts, auto parts and electronic products are shipped from China.
“We are selling a large number of tickets because people are eager to experience our modern EMU (electric multiple unit) trains, especially people from neighbouring countries such as Thailand,” Du said.
Vice President of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Daovone Phachanthavong, told the Vientiane Times this week that the opening of the railway at the end of last year had not only been a major boost to tourism in Laos but had also improved logistics and transport, helping to boost trade between Laos and neighbouring countries.
Daovone said Laos has huge potential for investment in agriculture, especially cattle farming for export to China.
But although the railway offers opportunities for Laos to grow its economy, the government needs to do more to improve the investment climate and streamline the processing of paperwork associated with investment approval.
Daovone said government sectors need to view entrepreneurs as shareholders because the growth of their businesses means more revenue generated for the country through taxes and job creation.
President of the Association of the Lao Garment Industry and Vice President of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Xaybandith Rasphone, said that unlike big companies in Thailand and China, it is very challenging for Lao companies, due to their size, to make full use of the railway.
Xaybandith was quoted in the China Daily as saying that the capacity of and goods produced by Lao firms are not yet of sufficient volume to meet the needs of the Chinese market and that more support from the government is needed.
Other business leaders said improvements are needed to enable easier access to the railway by Lao businesses, saying they are disadvantaged by high logistics costs and the lack of an online train ticket booking service for passengers.