Attapeu province still enjoying investment growth
Investment in Attapeu province continues to rise this year despite the government’s continued halt on new mining and rubber project proposals, officials in charge have confirmed.
Director of the Provincial Department of Planning and Investment Mr Soulichan Phonekeo told Vientiane Times on Wednesday that about 66 concession projects worth US$2.3 billion have been approved in the province since 2011.
“Over the past four months of this year, our province has approved 4 concession projects worth US$160 million. These projects are related to an industrial park and hydropower,” he said.
Previously, entrepreneurs mainly invested in mining, timber, industrial tree plantations and the agriculture sector in Attapeu province, Mr Soulichan said.
Nevertheless, in recent months investors have shown interest in hydropower, wind and solar energy development.
“Many Lao companies are interested in developing small- hydropower projects such as those with an installed capacity of 1-15 MW,” he said.
Half a decade ago, Vietnamese multi-sector conglomerate Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group was one of the largest investors in Attapeu province.
But after the company was plagued by financial woes over its loss-making agricultural arm, Hoang Anh Gia Lai decided to sell over 600 hectares of sugar farms and a processing factory to other Vietnamese companies.
Mr Soulichan said although the economy had eased in Laos over the past five years, the investment sector continued to grow with Vietnam the largest investor in the province.
Significantly, many local companies had invested in developing tourism sites and tourism-related services to facilitate the growing number of visitors to Laos.
Director of the provincial Department of Information, Culture and Tourism, Ms Bounnan Bounnaseng said about 300,000 tourists visited Attapeu province each year, of which 80 percent were Vietnamese.
Some international visitors are also coming to the province by crossing Bo Y/Phou Keua international border checkpoint between Attapeu and Vietnamese province.
The growth of the tourism sector has attracted Vietnamese and local companies to invest in the service sector responding to the needs of visitors.
The main challenge for Attapeu is a lack of infrastructure, notably roads access to tourism sites and roads for carrying goods to markets.
According to Lao economists, Attapeu province has businesses potential since it is connected with neighbouring countries, particularly Vietnam. The government is being urged to develop infrastructure in the province to facilitate economic growth and poverty reduction efforts.
Attapeu has a population of just 139,000 people but many still live under the poverty line so more effort is needed in order to attract additional investment to the province and generate jobs for local people.
According to a report from Attapeu province last year, the provincial economy was growing steadily with annual Gross Domestic Product per capita averaging about US$1,680 (about 13.6 million kip).