April 11, 2012
Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong has urged planning and finance officials to mobilise state resources to boost rice production as the government is concerned about food insecurity this year.
Speaking at a joint meeting of planning and finance officials from around the country in Vientiane yesterday, the premier said one of the most important tasks in the next six months of this fiscal year was to boost rice and cash crop cultivation in the upcoming wet season.
Laos has two main farming seasons – the wet season from June to October and the dry season from October to March.
“You must prepare early and make good plans. It is important to have a sufficient supply of seeds, cultivation facilities and technical officials to help farmers grow crops, especially in target areas,” Mr Thongsing said. His speech provided guidelines for planning and finance officials as they implement the national socio-economic development plan for 2011/2012.
According to data from the Ministry of Planning and Investment, Laos produced 2.95 million tonnes of rice in 2011, just 81 percent of the target for the year. This year the government had hoped to boost the output of irrigated rice but was unsuccessful, as the harvest yielded only 0.56 million tonnes, equivalent to 78 percent of the target.
One of the main causes of the drop in yields was the damage to irrigation systems around country, which were badly hit by tropical storms last year.
Mr Thongsing said planning and finance officials must also pay greater attention to weather forecasts, adding that accurate predictions amid changing weather patterns would enable the government to prepare to deal with natural disasters during the upcoming rainy season.
He also advised officials to review the implementation of 400 billion kip worth of flood recovery projects, which the government approved after learning that the implementation of some projects had been delayed.
“When you face problems, you must hurry to coordinate with each other to solve the problem. You should not just ignore the problem as in the past,” he said, adding that officials must implement projects in accordance with the budget plan.
The premier also said that officials had to focus on the successful collection of revenue and expenditure in line with the budget approved by the National Assembly.
He advised officials to close gaps in revenue leaks, in particular those due to the tax exemption policy.
Mr Thongsing said finance officials must be disciplined and stop the operation of development projects that have not been approved by the National Assembly in an attempt to slow growing public debt.
He said unapproved development projects had been a chronic problem. Officials must abide by the Investment Law and study the benefits of a proposed project as well as holding bidding sessions to select the most suitable contractors.
Mr Thongsing also said that the sectors concerned must pay more attention to price control and remove opportunities for traders to use a crisis to put prices up, especially everyday consumer goods.
He said officials should also cooperate in addressing inflation, to ensure the stability of the macro economy. The sectors concerned must also monitor the global economy, especially where Laos’ trading partners are concerned so that the country can prepare plans to address the negative impacts of global economic slowdowns.
The sectors involved should work to bolster productivity, especially of handicrafts and souvenirs with 2012 being Visit Laos Year, he added.