Belt and Road unlocks Laos potential
2018-02-26, LI YINGQING and DENG YANZI in Kunming

The continuous rollout of China’s Belt and Road Initiative gives Yunnan Provincial Overseas Investment Co a further boost of confidence for its investment plans in Laos.

Since entering the Laos market in 1997, the company’s exploration in the developing Southeast Asian country has been steady but tough, until the proposal of the trade and infrastructure-focused Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, according to the company’s executives.

“It is the mission of our company to become a global company, which makes our international projects a crucial part of our business. The Belt and Road Initiative has definitely boosted our confidence in our steps to ‘go global’, offering a bigger platform for further development,” said Liu Guangcan, deputy general manager of Yunnan Provincial Overseas Investment Co.

Based in Kunming, capital of Southwest China’s Yunnan province, the company is the Chinese investor behind the Saysettha Development Zone, a State-level special economic zone in Laos near the capital Vientiane. 

As a collaborative project between the Chinese and Laotian governments, it aims to accommodate 150 companies in industries such as agricultural goods, machinery manufacturing and logistics by 2030. 

The zone is expected to provide 30,000 jobs to the local community, according to the company.

During his state visit to Laos in November, President Xi Jinping mentioned the “good progress” made by the project, in a signed article in the Laotian media. He also lauded the zone’s contribution in helping Laos “upgrade its industries, attract FDI (foreign direct investment), create jobs and boost the growth of its SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises)”.

The development of the Saysettha Development Zone is expected to enjoy a boon after the opening of the China-Laos railway — set for completion by late 2021 — a Belt and Road infrastructure project connecting Kunming to Vientiane.

The gate of the project is merely 1 km away from Vientiane’s railway terminus, according to Liu Hu, the zone’s general manager and vice-general manager of Yunnan Provincial Overseas Investment Co.

“Logistics costs have a significant impact on our companies in the area. When the China-Laos railway starts services in the future, it will dramatically reduce the costs of transporting raw materials and products into and from our development zone,” said Liu Hu.

One of the biggest Chinese investors in Laos, the State-owned Yunnan Provincial Overseas Investment Co is the investor and operator of Vientiane Center, the capital’s first urban complex. Launched in early 2015, it provides jobs and business opportunities for the local community.

“I keep hearing about how substantially life has changed for the Laotian people before and after they work for us,” Liu Hu recalled. “Chinese investments have brought about concrete improvement to the lives of people along the Belt and Road Initiative.”


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