Laos Adopts Stimulus Package To Minimise Virus Economic Impact

Source: Vientiane Times

The government has adopted in principle an economic stimulus package to minimise the impact caused by the ongoing outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The 13-measure package, presented by the Ministry of Planning and Investment, was endorsed at the cabinet’s two-day monthly meeting for March that ended on Friday.

But details are yet to be disclosed as the ministry needs to work with other relevant ministries to revise the measures in accordance with recommendations made by members of the cabinet.

The finalised measures will be later submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office for Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith to sign before coming into effect.

Concluding the meeting on Friday, PM Thongloun announced the establishment of a task force committee in charge of addressing the economic impact.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Planning and Investment Sonexay Siphandone was entrusted to chair the new committee.

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Though there are no confirmed coronavirus cases in Laos, the widespread outbreak in other countries around the world has resulted in significant impacts on the Lao economy.

The adoption of the stimulus package came just a day later after the meeting discussed and approved measures for COVID-19 prevention.

PM Thongloun told the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare to ensure sufficient supply of workers for projects while properly managing foreign workers in line with measures promulgated.  

He asked the meeting to ensure the effective management of the Laos-China railway and expressway construction projects – critical infrastructure and essential drivers of the economy.

The Ministry of Industry and Commerce was asked to work with the relevant ministries to facilitate the import-export of goods to ensure a sufficient supply of essential daily consumables.

The ministry was told to take decisive action to address unreasonable price increases in vital products for virus protection amid reports of unusual price hikes.

PM Thongloun told the Ministry of Health to prepare sufficient medical staff and equipment to handle potential cases in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak in Laos.

Through the meeting, the head of the government told local authorities to strictly enforce the government’s measures in closing local and traditional checkpoints to prevent COVID-19.

PM Thongloun told the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism to enforce the government’s decision announced on the first day of the monthly meeting to temporary shutdown all entertainment venues, karaoke and massage venues.

The ministry was told to take this opportunity to work with relevant business operators in improving tourism attraction sites in preparation for the resumption of visitors once the COVID-19 outbreak is under control.

The PM instructed the Ministry of Education and Sports to explore teaching and learning methods to replace the normal programme after the government decided to close all schools in the wake of the virus outbreak.

This includes the relevant ministry being asked to consider decreasing fees for internet services for the time being to facilitate online learning.

The premier told ministries and organisations to permit civil servants whose children are students of preschools and kindergarten to take holidays rotationally so they can take care of their children. Civil servants are not allowed to take their children to offices.

The premier called for ministries, organisations and all walks of life to join hands enforcing the prevention measures adopted and to participate in fighting the virus.

During Friday’s meeting, participants also discussed the draft strategy on official development assistance (ODA) mobilisation and management for 2020-2030.  A draft decree on public-private partnerships was also tabled at the meeting. The cabinet approved in principle the draft strategy and decree, which will be both revised following recommendations made by the participants.

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