Today’s Vientiane Times reports (“Developers suspend major power investments”) that, due to the global recession (hence presumed falling demand and prices for power, particularly in Thailand where some of Laos’ energy exports are destined for), foreign investors have halted power projects. Although China is not mentioned, the projects listed include at least two Chinese-funded hydropower projcets: the Nam Ou and Nam Theun dams.
Members of the LaoFAB newsgroup have been rejoicing at the announcement (“the best possible early Christmas present for Laos,” wrote Keith Barney from York University). Senior Western consultants I have spoken to in the past few days have expressed similar views, seeing the impact of Chinese projects as overwhelmingly negative (though they judged Vietnamese and Korean ones as not better and in some ways worse).
In my earlier post from Vientiane I reported that the secretary-general of the Chinese association here said China was halting its projects due to criticism, to wait until it blows over. Chinese infrastructure projects here do generally seem to be guided by both political and economic goals, so it makes sense that there is a combination of these in this decision. I wonder whether, after the recession is over, there will be adjustments in China’s overseas aid/investment policy/practice.