Pop quiz: Which country is likely to have the fastest-growing economy in Southeast Asia this year? Indonesia, the region’s emerging powerhouse? Myanmar, investors’ flavor of the month as it opens to the Western world? Or maybe Thailand, which is rebounding nicely from last year’s epic floods?
Wrong on all the above. The correct answer is Laos, which for years has been overlooked as too small, too complicated, and in many cases just too weird to merit serious attention from mainstream investors.
Yet no economy in Southeast Asia appears to be more immune to this year’s global economic slowdown. Laos is on track to post an impressive 8.3% growth rate in 2012, according to the International Monetary Fund, which would almost certainly put it at the top of the table for Southeast Asia given what’s happening elsewhere in the region.
Cambodia is on track to come in second with 6.5% growth, the IMF says, followed by Myanmar at 6.2%. Indonesia and Thailand are roughly in the same ballpark.
The Latest on Covid-19 in Southeast Asia
Thailand has largely avoided widespread community transmission of Covid-19, but the kingdom is not faring well on the economic front, with a projected contraction of 7.1 percent this year.
China’s debt-trap diplomacy: Laos’ credit rating downgraded to CCC
Laos’ debt challenge is deeply concerning, with some media commentators suggesting the country is falling into a debt trap as a result of Chinese infrastructure investments connected to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
Foreign capital still heads to Vietnam
As many as 798 projects added a combined over 5.11 billion USD to their investment capital, down 23 percent year-on-year in project number but up 6.8 percent in value.
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