Vientiane Times, February 18, 2014
Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment Dr Bounthavy Sisouphanthong and his delegation visited the site of the Xayaboury dam on Saturday to inspect the progress of construction works.
During the visit, he told Vientiane Times that after speaking with project management, he has ascertained that there has been no major delays to construction despite the fact the site was inundated by flash flooding two months ago.
“I asked the project’s staff and they said they only need to clean the dried mud off the steel and that’s all,” he mentioned.
The water level of the Mekong River increased rapidly over the period from December 16 to 19after heavy rains upstream. It then took a further two weeks for the water to be pumped out so that construction work could continue as normal.
The purpose of the visit by Dr Bounthavy and his delegation was to collect information about the project and report back to the government after they return to Vientiane.
The Xayaboury Hydropower Plant is the first mainstream Mekong barrage in Laos.
The current GDP growth rate of 8 percent per annum is due largely to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in hydropower, mining and manufacturing.
Unfortunately, hydropower and mining aren’t particularly labour intensive once the construction phase is over, so comparatively few people gain employment in these sectors despite the considerable investment involved.
According to the Ministry of Planning and Investment, the Lao government approved about US$3 billion worth of private investment projects in the 2012/2013 fiscal year.
The Bank of the Lao PDR detected a US$1.1 billion inflow of foreign funds into Laos in the same fiscal year. Most of the investment funds are flowing into the hydropower, mining and manufacturing sectors.
Dr Bounthavy said that foreign investors are quite interested in the construction of hydroelectric power in Laos.
“Now, the Lao government wants foreign investors to set up in special economic zones in the country, especially in industrial manufacturing,” he noted.
“Manufacturing creates a lot of jobs for workers; but the investors are still not greatly interested in the sector,” Dr Bounthavy pointed out.
While many foreign investors are still not attracted to the special economic zones, Japanese investors have shown significant interest in wanting to invest in these areas.