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National Assembly opens, govt vows to stabilise economy, no debt default 

The National Assembly (NA)’s 9th legislature kicked off its sixth Ordinary Session on Tuesday, with debates to centre on economic, monetary and budgetary matters amid continuing economic hardship.

Dr Xaysomphone Phomvihane delivers the opening remarks at the National Assembly.

President of the National Assembly Dr Xaysomphone Phomvihane declared the biannual session open, giving the floor to the government to report on measures to address the country’s financial and economic difficulties, which have seen inflation reach unprecedented levels and continuing depreciation of the kip. 
Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone pledged to continue to enforce measures to stabilise the macroeconomy and prevent Laos falling into crisis.
“Our focus will be on enforcing promulgated measures to address fragile, sensitive and fluctuating situations in relation to currency exchange and inflation rates, and costs,” the Premier told the opening session.
These steps are aimed at curbing rising inflation rates and stabilising prices and the cost of living, he added.
Secretary General of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party Central Committee and President, Thongloun Sisoulith, and other Party and state leaders were present at the opening session.
PM Sonexay assured Assembly members that debt would continue to be serviced, especially foreign debt, and vowed to prevent Laos from sliding into default, despite the country having high-level public and publicly-guaranteed debt.
Pledging to repay the debts owed by state enterprises, PM Sonexay said the government would consider selling its stake in some hydropower projects.
Meanwhile, the government will seek new sources of finance to repay the debts owed by state-funded development projects, so that local contractors have sufficient capital to keep their businesses alive. 
Special emphasis, he said, will be placed on maximising revenue collection by exploring new income sources and modernising revenue collection in order to prevent leaks, so that the government has a larger budget from which to repay debts.  
Given its limited budget, the government will continue to cut spending, including on state vehicles and more.

Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone pledges to prevent debt default.

The government will also continue to regulate the use of foreign currencies and ensure these are circulated within the banking system in order to boost foreign exchange reserves.
Other key measures include:
-    Continue to improve the business environment,
-    Continue to improve and reform state enterprises with poor performance such as Electricite Du Laos, Nayobai (Policy) Bank, Lao Development Lottery State Enterprise, Lao Airlines and others,
-    Promote production to reduce imports, continue to promote micro, small and medium enterprises,
-    Streamline cross-border trade and procedures at dry ports,
-    Do more to attract foreign tourists   
The Ministers of Finance, Planning and Investment, and the Governor of the Bank of the Lao PDR presented reports covering the scope of their responsibilities, for lawmakers to debate. 
Delivering the opening remarks, Dr Xaysomphone said that the session, which will run until November 21, will hear and debate the mid-term review of the five-year national socio-economic development plan, the budget and monetary plans for 2021-2025, and plans for the remaining two and a half years.
Implementation of the 2023 socio-economic development plan, budget and monetary plans, and plans for 2024 will also be debated.
Reports on implementation of the two national agendas for 2021-2023 – one to address financial and economic difficulties and the other to address the drug trade – will also be presented and debated.
Many state agencies are scheduled to present mid-term reviews of their performances as they reach the half-way stage of their five-year development plans for 2021-2025.
Lawmakers will also debate newly-drafted laws on special economic zones and basic healthcare. Debates will also consider draft amendments to six laws on healthcare, intellectual property, accounting, payment systems, judges, and inspection and monitoring by the National Assembly and Provincial People’s Councils.

By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
 (Latest Update November 1, 2023)

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