The Government of Laos is considering engaging an international consulting firm to determine the value of state assets, particularly those pertaining to natural resources.
Vientiane Times reports that the idea was put forward at the National Assembly last week as a way for the government to persuade creditors of the country’s capacity to repay the massive debts it has accrued.
Speaking at the National Assembly, Minister of Finance Bounchom Ubonpaseuth said that the country “has considerable assets and natural resources but we have never assessed their full value.”
“The national committee for the settlement of debt has agreed that we should identify an internationally renowned consulting company to carry out such an evaluation, particularly of government-owned projects.”
He noted that the consulting firm would be able to value projects in the mining and hydropower sector, providing information on their current value as well as projections and forecasts for the future.
Creditors may then feel more confident that Laos is unlikely to default on its debts after understanding the country’s real potential, according to Minister Bounchom.
He said that many other countries have had their assets valued and that this can help a nation to obtain a low-interest loan.
Ms. Valy Vetsaphong, Vice President of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry and NA member for Vientiane, voiced support for the idea, saying the government should undertake the valuation as soon as possible.
The outspoken MP has repeatedly urged the Party and Government to overhaul the financial sector and work on improving the investment environment.
When addressing the National Assembly, Ms. Valy also recently called out the government for failing to take real action against corrupt officials, saying that Laos should actively punish wrongdoers instead of merely moving them to positions out of the public eye.
Public debt levels have increased considerably since 2019, increasing to 88 percent of GDP in 2021, with the energy sector accounting for over 30 percent of the debt stock, according to the World Bank.