March 4, 2011
To herald the Ninth Congress of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party next month, Vientiane Times is running a series of articles to give readers greater insight into the Party’s goals
The number of poor people living in Laos has been steadily falling over the past five years. At the 8th Party Congress in 2006, the Party determined directives and issued policies to address poverty so Laos can leave the UN’s list of least developed countries by 2020. By 2015 the government will have fulfilled all the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
Laos had a total of 142 districts before 2005, of which 72 are considered poor and 47 are classified as being at the absolute poorest level. At present, Laos has 146 districts including four new districts.
The new districts are Xayxathane in Xayaboury province, Meun in Vientiane province, Xaychamphon in Borikhamxay and Phonthong in Luang Prabang province. These districts were established after the government defined the 72 poorest districts.
In 2001 there were 300,000 families in these 72 poor districts. That is about 39 percent, according to the Lao National Committee for Rural Development and Poverty Alleviation and Poverty Reduction Fund. From 2001-2005 the number of families fell from 300,000 to 160,000.
This means the recorded demographics in relation to poverty have decreased from 39 to 28.7 percent.
Currently 140,000 of these families are classified as living above the poverty line, which means these families have fulfilled their basic human needs such as adequate food and clothing, permanent housing, and access to health, education and transport.
The government defines poverty as not having enough food, lacking adequate clothing, not having permanent housing and lacking access to health, education and transportation.
The poverty rate continued to fall between 2005 and 2010, from 28.7 to 26 percent, and the government expects it to fall to 15 percent by 2015.
The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of each province increased in line with income, which depends on differing variables. For example Xekong province has the lowest income in all of Laos. In 2000, the income per capita was US$300. Now the income per capita is about US$550-600 per person.
The government was able to secure GDP growth of 7.5 to 8 percent.
Over the past five years, a large number of poor people have enjoyed a better standard of living because the Party has laid down the right policies to lead the country. At the 8th Party Congress in 2006, the Party issued seven main policies:
1. Determine targets related to national development aiming at central economic development; continue to deal with the poverty of people focusing on addressing poverty of families; strongly strive to achieve the target basically eliminating poverty by 2010; achieve an annual economic growth rate of 7.5 percent.
2. Enhance the effectiveness of state macro management of the market economy ensure the expansion of economy and society in line with socialist principles.
3. Bolster human resource development in every area to fulfil the needs of socioeconomic development modern times; attend to implementation of suitable social policy, harmonizing with the conditions and reality of the economic and financial situation in Laos.
4. Enhance state power in line with the principle building a state that is of people, by the people and for the benefit of the people; build Laos in such way that becomes a state governed the rule of law.
5. Increase unity among entire population on the basis of workers-farmers alliance, revolutionary intellectuals and students under the leadership of the Party.
6. Implement the national defence and security policy among the entire population to defend the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, to guarantee stability and peace for socioeconomic development and the livelihood of the people.
7. Continue implementing creative foreign policy for the purpose of actively integrating Laos with the international community, implement multi-direction and multi-forms on the basis of mutual respect for each other’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and noninterference in each other’s internal affairs on an equal footing and with mutual interest.