Laos opens railway to China as debt to Beijing rises

Dec 3, 2021, 3:49 AM | Updated: 7:16 pm

BEIJING (AP) — After a blessing by Buddhist monks, Lao Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh on Friday rode the first run of a $5.9 billion Chinese-built railway that links isolated, mountainous Laos with southern China in an effort to increase trade.

Both governments tout the 1,035-kilometer (642-mile) line from the Lao capital, Vientiane to Kunming in China’s poor southwest as a boost to economic growth. But it leaves a debt that foreign experts warn Laos, a country of 7 million people wedged between China, Vietnam and Thailand, might struggle to repay.

The railway is one of hundreds of projects under Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative to build ports, railways and other facilities across Asia, Africa and the Pacific. Poor countries welcome the initiative, but some complain they are left owing too much to Chinese banks.

The first train pulled out of Vientiane following an inauguration ceremony conducted by Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Lao counterpart, Thongloun Sisoulith, over a video link from their capitals, the Lao news agency reported.

On Thursday, saffron-robed Lao monks conducted a ceremony for the railway, according to the Lao news agency.

The railway is to carry only cargo across the border for now due to curbs on passenger travel imposed to contain the coronavirus.

The Kunming-Vientiane railway is a link in a possible future network connecting China with Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore. That would give southern China more access to ports and export markets.

Chinese contractors are building a high-speed rail line from the Thai capital, Bangkok, to the Lao border. That won’t be completed until 2028 and will leave a gap between the border and the line to China.

Borrowed money makes up 60% of the railway’s investment. Foreign experts say that is unusually high for an infrastructure project and increases the risk that the railway might fail to generate enough revenue to repay its debt.

Laos has been one of the world’s fastest-growing economies over the past decade but still is among the poorest. Its average economic output per person more than doubled since 2010 but stands at $2,600.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Uvalde schools’ police chief resigns from City Council

UVALDE, Texas (AP) — The Uvalde school district’s police chief has stepped down from his position in the City Council just weeks after being sworn in following allegations that he erred in his response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School that left 19 students and two teachers dead. Chief Pete Arredondo told the […]
11 hours ago
FILE - Jerry Emmett, who was born before women won the right to vote in the U.S., leaves the Yavapa...
Associated Press

Top election officials in Arizona county leave amid threats

The elected county recorder and the elections director in Arizona's Yavapai County are resigning after more than a year and a half of threats and heated criticism from backers of former President Donald Trump who accept his lie that he lost the 2020 election because of fraud.
11 hours ago
Associated Press

2 teenagers killed, 1 man wounded in Houston-area shooting

HOUSTON (AP) — Two teenagers were killed and one man was injured in a shooting at Houston-area apartment complex, authorities said Saturday. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said on Twitter that deputies responded to reports of a shooting in the parking lot of the complex in north Harris County, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) north […]
11 hours ago
FILE - A plane drops retardant on a wildfire near homes Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Laguna Beach, C...
Associated Press

US testing new fire retardant, critics push other methods

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — U.S. officials are testing a new wildfire retardant after two decades of buying millions of gallons annually from one supplier, but watchdogs say the expensive strategy is overly fixated on aerial attacks at the expense of hiring more fire-line digging ground crews. The Forest Service used more than 50 million gallons […]
11 hours ago
FILE - Tesla CEO Elon Musk attends the opening of the Tesla factory Berlin Brandenburg in Gruenheid...
Associated Press

Musk meets pope, uses Twitter to announce the audience

ROME (AP) — Tesla CEO Elon Musk, whose $44 billion bid to buy Twitter remains in limbo, used the social media platform to announce he had met with Pope Francis. “Honored to meet @Pontifex yesterday,” Musk tweeted of the Friday afternoon audience, alongside a photo showing Musk, Francis and four of Musk’s teenage children. The […]
11 hours ago
Friends and family gathered at Vadnais Lake after news of a dead child being pulled out of the lake...
Associated Press

Bodies of 2 of 3 missing kids found in Minnesota lake

VADNAIS HEIGHTS, Minn. (AP) — The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned. Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been […]
11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
Laos opens railway to China as debt to Beijing rises