"Economic Development of the Lao PDR in the Future of Asia"

May 22, 2002

His Excellency Bounnhang Vorachith
Prime Minister, Lao People's Democratic Republic

Mr. Tsuruta, President of Nikkei,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, I would like to express my great pleasure and honor to be invited by Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Inc. to participate in the 8th Annual International Conference on the "Future of Asia," an international conference significantly important for the Asian people in the looking for appropriate ways of cooperation in the new century. Through this forum, leaders from the governments, business circles, research institutions, will be able to forecast the future and their reaction according to the general tendency in Asia. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Mr. President, Tsuruta, and his staff for the warm hospitality and generosity extended to us since our arrival to this beautiful city of Tokyo, the land of pearl in the East.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Aware we are, Asia is a vast continent having the largest population in the world, possessing enormous natural and excellent human resources with great potentials in various fields. Asia has been the center of civilization and heritages for thousands years, more importantly many countries in Asia have strong economies. Japan, China and other developed countries are playing outstanding role, creating good circumstances for the Asian nations and international community to become more enthusiastic in their development path.

I foresee the future of Asia as combined efforts of all the Asian nations rich and poor and regional groupings, including the Southeast Asia as well as the ASEAN plus 3 process. The narrowing of the development gaps between the old and new members of ASEAN, as well as development projects in the Mekong river's riparian countries, will also contribute such endeavors.

To realize such common efforts and accelerate its integration, the Lao People's Democratic Republic has strong ambition in the development of infrastructure by focusing on the development of inland road network including railway, air and water transport. Previously, it has been agreed between Laos and some ASEAN member countries to build the Singapore-Kunming railroad across Lao PDR, but due to the financial and economic crisis heated our region this project has been suspended. Furthermore, with assistance from the Asian Development Bank the six countries such as: Laos-Cambodia-Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and PR China are attaching great importance to the sub-regional roads connection projects, which will be built to connect the middle and southern parts of Laos with the middle part of Vietnam, the northeast part of Thailand to be connected with Cambodia, the northern part of Laos with northeast of Myanmar, Thailand and the south of PR China. During the Summit meeting between three Prime Ministers of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam last January, we have agreed to expand the scope of the "Development Triangle" from four provinces to cover seven provinces, which has included the southern part of Laos, northern part of Cambodia and the middle part of Vietnam. I can realize about the possibility of cooperation and benefits that we are going to gain in the implementation of the ASEAN plus 3 Summit agreements, with Japan, ROK, and PR China. It will play crucial role in the regional economic development as well as for the newer members of ASEAN to gradually integrate into the mainstream of regional cooperation.

Besides that it is also to acknowledge that economic growth of Japan, ROK, and PR China has become an important power for economic development in Asia; and I concur with the position of Prime Minister Koizumi stating in Boao that "The rise of China is not a threat, but it is both opportunities and challenges" as it is the fact that what ever country with strong economy will have positive influence to the less developed countries; for instance Japan has been providing assistance to many countries in the region including Lao PDR. And for many years already, Chin has also been playing active role in the political and economic arena of our regional cooperation.

Concerning the five proposals that Prime Minister Koizumi has stated in Singapore on 4th January, 2002 on the Initiatives for development in East-Asia or IDEA, I consider that those initiatives are constructive aiming to further promote cooperation between ASEAN and Japan on the basis of "think and progress together." The Government of Japan has been proactive in the continuation and contribution, including Lao PDR, to make ASEAN stronger; as it has been stated in the Hanoi Declaration of 2000 to gradually narrow development gaps between the old and newer member of ASEAN. Certainly, those proposals have to be carefully considered by the concerned countries.

Ladies and gentlemen,

To develop the economy of Laos in the future of Asia, our government has targeted to lift the nation out of the least-development status by year 2020, aiming to improve living standard of the people three time. To achieve this objective, the government will consistently follow the principle and integrated approach of new mechanism policy by using market-oriented one with state management. We will also conduct further studies on the exploring of hiding internal potentials, involve all economic sectors and expand external relations. We will also focus on the implementation of our priority tasks such as: (1) rural development to alleviate poverty, (2) decentralize power to ensure the cost-effective and transparency of our executive power at the grass root level, (3) build a skilled and qualified work force by establishing vocational training centers, (4) develop human resources.

The promotion of trade and investment are among others priority policy of the Lao government. Now, Laos is full-fledged member of Japan-ASEAN Promotion Center, which is located in Tokyo. I have strong hope that through the Center, the Japanese people will be able to gain more information on the promotion of trade, investment and some other hidden potentials of Laos including eco and culture tourism, and to attract more tourists from Japan and other countries.

Distinguished guests,

Today, although it has been small number of Japanese investment in Laos, I hope, in the very near future, the amount of Japanese investment will be increased. I would like to take this auspicious opportunity to represent the Lao government and entire Lao people in expressing sincere gratitude to the Japanese government and people for extending assistance, and hope to see the continuation of such assistance which greatly contribute to our efforts in the integration into the development level of the ASEAN family and for the prosperity of Asia.

In conclusion, I would like to wish you all good health and brilliant success for this conference.

Thank you.

Titles of speakers, names of companies, etc., were correct as of the time when the forum was held.