Lao gov't expects 3.3-pct economic growth this year despite COVID-19

VIENTIANE, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) -- The Lao government predicted that the country's economy will grow by 3.3 percent in 2020 despite fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith confirmed the projection on Tuesday when addressing the opening ceremony of the 10th session of the National Assembly's eighth legislature.

He outlined the country's economic difficulties and rising debt burden, exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis and most recently compounded by widespread flooding.

"We have been suffering from economic difficulties for several years. In addition, weather extremes and the COVID-19 pandemic are severely affecting socio-economic development," local daily Vientiane Times quoted him as saying.

With the pandemic placing a greater burden on Laos' debt service capability, the government has drawn up short-, medium- and long-term plans to address its liabilities and obligations by attempting to reduce the fiscal deficit each year.

Thongloun acknowledged that the country's economy was vulnerable to global economic shocks and climate change, but he was optimistic that economic growth would be higher than the global growth rate.

The agriculture sector in Laos is expected to grow by 2.3 percent this year, representing 16.6 percent of its GDP. Industry is forecast to grow by 9.8 percent, accounting for 33 percent of GDP, but growth in the service sector is expected to contract by 1.6 percent, representing 39.5 percent of GDP.

Although the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy might continue until next year, the government was optimistic that the economy would recover to some extent due to the uninterrupted construction of large-scale development projects, said the Lao prime minister.

These projects include the Laos-China railway, Vientiane-Vangvieng expressway, building of industrial parks and dry ports, and hydropower and mining projects, all of which will help drive economic growth, he said.

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