WHAT’S UP WITH LAOS?
Suddenly, the landlocked nation of
Laos is apparently getting smothered
with attention from the United States.
On June 28, the White House took advantage
of a routine diplomatic event, the
presentation of a new envoy’s credentials
to do a full-blown press release. The new
ambassador was Seng Soukhathivong of
Laos and he was photographed with the
president in the Oval Office.
The Obama administration is putting more emphasis on Southeast Asia, as it feels that the area was neglected by the previous Bush administration due to its involvement in the Middle East.
The U.S. moves are apparently to counter China’s latest efforts to improve relations with Laos. China’s Vice President and heir apparent Xi Jinping visited Laos in June with a pledge to invest in the country’s infrastructure to expedite travel between China and Thailand, the latter being Southeast Asia’s commercial hub.
BULLET TRAIN GOES
NOWHERE IN VIETNAM
In the its first rejection of a government proposal, in June, the national assembly rejected the government’s plan to establish a bullet train from the nation’s capital, Hanoi, to the country’s commercial center, Ho Chi Min City, formerly Saigon. The 975-mile route presently takes 30 hours, but the bullet train would have cut that to six.
The major reason the bullet train proposal failed was cost. The project would have consumed about 50 percent of Vietnam’s gross domestic project.
The bullet train rejection points out
the difficulties that Vietnam and smaller
countries face in getting capital for infrastructure.
They must look for help from
developed countries, but as the world recovers
from the economic meltdown, those
funds have diminished.
The bullet train episode also points out the fragility of Vietnam’s economy, with the growth rate in 2009 two to three points lower than in the 2008 and 2007.
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