Laos aims for 4% GDP growth in five-year economic plan

Jan 14 (Reuters) - The communist government of the Southeast Asian country of Laos is targeting annual economic growth of 4% in its five-year socio-economic plan to 2025, which aims to maintain growth and improve infrastructure, the state-run Vientiane Times reported.

The plan, outlined by Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith at the 11th Party Congress on Wednesday, aims to reach annual average per capita income of $2,887 in 2025, the paper said.

The country’s per capita income is currently just over $2,500, according to World Bank data.

The government also planned to encourage domestic and foreign investors to carry out large-scale projects, while the inflation rate would be kept at a maximum 6%, it said.

With a population of just over 7 million people, landlocked Laos is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia, with the majority of the population depending on agriculture, mostly growing rice.

The country has ridden a boom in hydropower developments, though some of the projects have raised concerns about the impact on the environment and core livelihoods such as farming and fishing.

The World Bank said in a report that the COVID-19 outbreak had plunged the Lao economy into its first recession since the Asian financial crisis in 1998, with an estimated 0.6% contraction in 2020.

But growth is expected to rebound to 4.9% this year, assuming that the spread of the virus is brought under control, that the government’s small but targeted COVID-19 fiscal support measures are implemented effectively, and that there are no new interruptions to the global economy recovery, the bank said. (Reporting by Kay Johnson Writing by Orathai Sriring Editing by Ed Davies)