A world-class commercial complex scheduled for completion here next year will help sustain the phenomenal 7 percent average economic growth of Laos during the past decade, according to Li Binhui, managing director of China CAMC Engineering Co., Ltd., developer of the project.
In an exclusive interview with Xinhua recently, Li, who is also the general manager of CAMCE Investment Lao Co., Ltd., said that the ambitious riverfront project, called Vientiane New World, is one clear indication of the development focus by the Lao government and its goal of providing world-class amenities for both Laotians and foreign tourists alike.
The 50 hectare commercial complex located along the banks of the Mekong River will feature a shopping mall, department stores, supermarkets, Lao-style shopping avenues, restaurants offering local and foreign cuisine as well as leisure and entertainment parks.
Talking about the economy, Li said that the World Bank has estimated at least 7 percent growth for Laos this year. "Looking at the GDP per capita, it's around 1600 U.S. dollars at the moment, and will grow close to 2000 U.S. dollars in 2016. Another measure of prosperity here is the increase in vehicle ownership which has grown from about 100,000 vehicles in 2010 to over 170,000 vehicles in 2013,"Li said.
He said that that there has been a great increase in prosperity among the residents of Vientiane, a credit that should go to the government's policies that are conducive to foreign investments.
Li said that Laos has gone through huge changes in recent years. These changes don't necessarily include skyscrapers since the country has ample lands for development but it is evident that more and more foreign investors are coming into the country, he said.
The 800 million U.S. dollar project began construction in February and is scheduled for completion by the end of 2015. "In most cities around the world like London for instance all the properties close to the river are always valued the highest. We are fortunate to have this excellent opportunity to develop a vital area which I think will change the landscape of Vientiane," Li said.
He said that one of the main reasons why they are confident in the success of this project is that a number of foreign firms, including those selling branded products, have already signified their intention to rent spaces in the commercial complex.
Li said that the state-of-the-art shopping center will improve the livelihoods of Vientiane citizens by providing them with a superior service compared to those found in the cities of Nong Khai and Udon Thani in neighboring Thailand. "Through our extensive market research we found that over 1 billion U.S. dollars are being spent just over the border in Thailand by Lao people each year,"Li said.
"What CAMCE is trying to do is capture the experience and quality that people are crossing the border for and bring them to Vientiane. We're hoping that this project will greatly improve the quality of life of residents here, some of whom travel to Thailand daily for the basic necessities of life,"he added.
Li is confident that the development, the largest such project being undertaken in the country, will reverse the flow of spending across the border and thus strongly contribute to the Lao economy.
With ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) integration in 2015 and the subsequent reduction of duties imposed on the movement of goods, Li has projected that the incentive for retailers to set up shops in Laos will grow exponentially. "Competition is always healthy for the business environment, however, we believe that Vientiane New World will have a broad range of product offerings which will put us above our competitors, "Li said.
With its location in the middle of the Mekong region, Laos is set to become a vital logistics and transit hub linking neighboring countries. As the Lao tourism industry has greatly improved during the past years, CAMCE's development project in the country could help solidify Vientiane's ascent as a global hub of trade and tourism.
CAMCE has a long history in Laos with past investments in crucial infrastructure such as airports and bridges stretching back 15 years. CAMCE Investment (Lao) Co., Ltd. is a joint venture between the Chinese state-owned enterprise CAMC Engineering and Lao Krittaphong Group.
The riverfront Vientiane New World project was given the green light after the success in constructing the ASEM villas used as the official accommodation for world leaders who attended the ninth Asia-Europe Summit held in Vientiane in 2012.
CAMCE is already in preparation for phase three of the project, an International Business Centre designed to act as a hub for the rapidly growing domestic and international business environment in the country. "CAMCE is totally committed to helping the country build a new and modern lifestyle. At the same time we also recognize the importance of a continuing strong Lao economy," said Li."The year 2015 is going to be a magnificent year for Laos, and we're looking forward to achieving great things together."