by Zhang Jianhua
VIENTIANE, May 2 (Xinhua) -- Laos strongly supports China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative and the initiative has been producing tangible benefits for the country, a high-ranking Lao official has said.
Lattanamany Khounnyvong, vice minister of public works and transport, made the comments here in a recent interview with Xinhua and other Chinese media.
Proposed by China in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, aiming at building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient trade routes of Silk Road.
Lattanamany said the initiative pursues the common development of the countries along the Belt and Road, and also eyes "joining hands towards prosperity."
Highlighting Laos' deep involvement in the initiative, he said the China-Laos railway which commenced construction on Dec. 25, 2016, has been listed as the most important project in the Eighth National Socio-Economic Development Plan 2016-2020 of Laos.
"As this is the No. 1 project of Laos, it is necessary to implement national policies well, promote socio-economic development, support the mission of poverty eradication along the railway route and help increase the incomes of local residents," he added.
According to Lattanamany, the Lao side has been working with Chinese contractors to assist local villagers along the route, support infrastructure construction of roads, schools and healthcare services along the railway.
"This (the project) is of great significance to the implementation of the Eighth National Socio-Economic Development Plan 2016-2020 of Laos," he stressed.
"Once completed, the railway will help facilitate people-to-people exchanges, reduce traveling time and costs ... the railway will also help promote agricultural production in Laos, increase income, attract more foreign investment and provide more employment opportunities," he said.
Most importantly, the project will help Lao people to quickly escape from poverty and improve their living standards, he stressed.
Lattanamany also noted that the construction of the China-Laos railway will help train a team of high-tech personnel from Laos and provide valuable experience for the country in railway construction.
The China-Laos railway has a total length of 414.332 km with over 62.7 percent of bridges and tunnels, linking the Mohan-Boten border gate in northern Laos and the capital city of Vientiane.
"The railway will not only be the major railway line in Laos, but also connects China and ASEAN countries. This is in line with the development strategy and plan of Laos," Lattanamany said.
Construction of the project is scheduled to take five years with an investment of some 40 billion Chinese yuan (5.8 billion U.S. dollars), 70 percent of which comes from Chinese investment and the rest from the Lao side.
The China-Laos railway is the first overseas route connecting with the railway system in China, using Chinese technology, equipment and investment.
In a separate interview, Lao Minister of Energy and Mines Khammany Inthirath also noted that the Belt and Road initiative is a significant and indispensable way to expand and deepen cooperation between Laos and China in various fields such as investment, industrial production, trade, finance, culture, social integration policy, infrastructure and others.