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Lao business operators eye benefits of China******
VIENTIANE, Oct. 29 (Xinhua) -- Lao entrepreneurs are confident they will benefit from the China-Laos Railway.
The railway will drastically cut the cost of transport through Laos compared to travel by road, thus giving a boost to trade and investment as well as attracting more visitors, local daily Vientiane Times on Friday quoted Lao businessman, Daovone Phachanthavong, who is also the vice executive president of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LNCCI), as saying.
When the railway comes into service, the cost of goods sold in Laos will be lower because it will be easier to import goods from China, Daovone told Vientiane Times when interviewed on Tuesday.
This will boost the income of Lao farmers because Chinese companies will invest more in agriculture in Laos, while more revenue will be earned from the increasing number of visitors to Laos, Daovone said.
China remains Laos' largest export market and is also the largest foreign investor in Laos.
Each year, Laos earns hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars from the export of copper ore, copper and copper products, as well as agricultural products including bananas, beans, sweet potato, rubber, cassava, sweetcorn, fruit (watermelon, passion fruit and tamarind) and processed wood to China.
Daovone believes that when the railway is operational, more Chinese companies will be interested in investing in these sectors in partnership with Lao businesses.
Other sectors will also benefit, especially tourism, with hotels, restaurants, guesthouses and vehicle rental businesses expected to earn more, while more revenue will be generated in the communication, education and health sectors, he added.
More foreign currency will flow into Laos, which will improve foreign exchange rates, lower inflation, and strengthen the economy, he said.
"From a personal perspective and as a business operator, I am confident that the government will roll out effective measures to bring the COVID-19 outbreak under control when the railway comes into service, so as to accelerate the recovery from the impacts of the pandemic," Daovone said.
He recommended that the government should do all it could to enable businesses to resume normal operations so they could bolster the incomes of local people as well as engage in more trading and investment for development purposes.
He also advised business operators to take this opportunity to work together to develop and improve their businesses in line with the circumstances imposed by the new normal.
The China-Laos Railway is a symbol of friendship between the two countries and will bring happiness and prosperity to the peoples of both countries, he said.
The China-Laos Railway is a docking project between the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and Laos' strategy to convert itself from a landlocked country to a land-linked hub.
The electrified passenger and cargo railway is built with the full application of Chinese management and technical standards. The construction of the project started in December 2016 and is scheduled to be completed and operational in December 2021. Enditem
Tonga volcano relief efforts face challenges: UN******
This handout photo taken on January 17, 2022, and received on January 18 from the New Zealand Defence Force shows a view from a P-3K2 Orion aircraft of an area covered in volcanic ash in Tonga, after the eruption of the Hunga-Tonga - Hunga-Haa'pai volcano on January 15.。
Relief efforts following the Tonga volcano eruption face the challenge of severed communications, falling ash closing the major airport and strict anti-COVID measures, UN officials said on Tuesday.。
They said the casualty toll remained at three dead and an unknown number of people injured.。
"Needs assessments by the Tongan authorities are ongoing and should provide a better estimate of what is required of the international community," said Stephane Dujarric, the chief spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. "We are on standby with teams and emergency supplies, and stocks in Tonga are being readied for distribution once humanitarian needs are identified."
"Our staff there are working to assist coordination and response efforts in-country," he told a regular press briefing. There are 23 UN workers in Tonga – 22 local hires and one international staffer.。
In a video conference, Jonathan Veitch, the UN acting resident and humanitarian coordinator for Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, spelled out challenges following Saturday's eruption.。
Communications within the 36 inhabited of the nation's 169 islands were limited to satellite phones, as was the capital Nuku'alofa and between Tonga and the outside world.。
The major submarine communications cable was severed, cutting voice, video and Internet services. Still, Veitch said, "I'm able to send basic messages by SMS (Small Message Service –text) to our colleagues through satellite systems, and we hope that soon phones will be back up and running."
While the natural choice for humanitarians is to fly in relief, Veitch said the Nuku'alofa airport remained closed because workers were unable to finish clearing ashfall. He said ships sailing from Australia and New Zealand would take six to eight days to arrive in a Tonga port.。
He also said there is a question of just how the authorities would handle people coming to Tonga when it has extremely strict protocols against COVID-19. No cases have been reported in the nation. Authorities are keen to keep the country COVID-free, especially in light of past Pacific island populations wiped out by rampant disease.。
While there are no casualties among the 23 UN workers, there are an unknown number of injuries on outlying islands, Veitch said.。
He said damage reports from those islands are coming in slowly. The coordinator said it is possible that damage on the outlying islands may not be as severe since they are further from the volcaNo. The eruption occurred only 65 km from the main island of Tongatapu, home of the capital.。
"We are concerned about the water situation," Veitch said. "I haven't heard that people have run out of water which would be obviously an emergency situation. Of course we have heard that shops are running out of food and also there has been quite a lot of ... mass purchasing as always happens in these circumstances, including of water and of food supplies too."
Technicians are examining a desalination plant on the main island to see if it is ready to go back online. The expected ships carry water, food, emergency supplies and even desalination plants.。
The sooner, the better to get the supplies, the coordinator said. "It is urgent."