Vice President addresses Vientiane on Three Builds directive

By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
March 21, 2013

Lao Vice President Bounnhang Vorachit (Photo: Minh Châu-TGVN)

Vice President Bounnhang Vorachit yesterday instructed the Vientiane authorities to help district and village authorities to formulate socio-economic development plans based on local strength, in a bid to spur development in local communities.

Mr Bounnhang made the suggestion at a two-day meeting of Vientiane authority on the implementation of the newly-initiated Three Builds directive on devolution (Sam Sang directive) that took place in the capital.

The directive, which features in the Resolution of the 9th Party Congress, spells out how provinces are to be built up as strategy-making units, districts are to be strengthened in all regards, and villages are to become development units. The directive has been in force since October last year.

Mr Bounnhang asked the authorities to focus on the three districts and ten villages designated to pilot the Three Builds initiative.

“The Vientiane Planning and Investment Department must lead the districts and villages designated to pilot the Sam Sang in drawing up development plans,” said Mr Bounnhang, who is Chairman of the National Committee in charge of Sam Sang activities.

“The districts and villages designated to pilot the Sam Sang must have commercially-based production projects along with other projects.”

To achieve this, the vice president suggested the Vientiane authorities send technical staff to work in local communities to lead people in carrying out production activities and teach them the correct techniques to boost productivity.

Although Vientiane boasts high agricultural production potential, the vice president noted that much of this potential remains untapped and the city imports a large number of farm products.

In this regard, he instructed officials to draw up plans and identify which crops should be grown in larger quantities, and to encourage farmers to grow them.

He reiterated that priority should be given to developing the districts and villages targeted as Sam Sang models, so they could in turn drive development in the surrounding areas.

“The allocation of state budget for investment must be in line with this direction,” he said.

To successfully implement the Sam Sang directive, Mr Bounnhang said “We must take action thoroughly.”

The vice president stressed the need to attach great importance to sustainable development based on environmentally-friendly development.

But he noted that forest areas across the capital have been occupied and overexploited, saying that forests in many areas are gradually disappearing while sawmills are mushrooming.

In this regard, he instructed officials to wisely allocate and manage land for development purposes based on sustainability.

In addition, the authorities were asked to revise legislation to ensure it was in harmony with the Sam Sang directive, which gives district and village authorities more responsibilities and tasks.

Mr Bounnhang also instructed the authorities to work harder to address social ills. He cited the prevalence of theft, bag snatching, drug abuse and smuggling, and flouting of the traffic regulations which causes road accidents, and other forms of anti-social behaviour.

The authorities were als o asked to work harder to ensure security, in order to create conditions conducive to development.

He suggested that special attention be placed on managing households, and making sure that foreigners whose documents were invalid were deported.

Mr Bounnhang recalled that taking action to carry out the Three Builds directive was aimed at realising the Resolution of the 9th Party Congress. The Resolution set an ambitious goal to reduce poverty among poor families from the currently estimated 13 percent to less than 10 percent by 2015 and advance the country further towards graduating from Least Developed Country status by 2020 and the creation of a socialist nation.

Vientiane Mayor Mr Soukanh Mahalath committed to leading officials in taking action to realise the advice of the vice president.

Deputy ministers and representatives of various government agencies also attended the meeting that ended today.


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Farmers leading the charge out of poverty in Vientiane province

By Meuangkham Noradeth & Kheuysomboun
March 20, 2013

Vietnamese researchers providing technical exchanges with that of Lao farmers.

Vietnamese researchers providing technical exchanges with that of Lao farmers.

The vast majority of villagers in the Longcheng focal group in Xaysomboun district, Vientiane province, are farmers so district officials are encouraging the cultivation of a variety crops and the raising of more livestock.

In Laos, 80 percent of the population work in agricultural production and live in rural areas so encouraging people to work in farming is an important factor in moving the country out of poverty by 2020 as targeted.

The Longcheng focal group comprise six villages that are home to 663 families and 3,675 people, said the Head of the group, Mr Bounpheng Phimphongsavanh.

He said people in this area have depended on farming and animal husbandry for their livelihood for many centuries, so growing more crops is important for boosting incomes and improving living standards.

Last fiscal year, the people of Xaysomboun district were affected by serious flooding, losing their crops and other property.

Provincial officials are working to restore and improve basic infrastructure as they seek to raise the living standards of local people step by step.

Mr Bounpheng said locals understand the government’s policy to develop the country and change lifestyles for the better so they are trying to improve their living standards by growing a wider variety of crops for sale and their own consumption.

But some people are still unaware of modern farming methods, so assistance is essential for them to increase the quality and quantity of crop yields.

Farmers in Xaysomboun district have had success with the commercial cultivation of cassava, oranges, chillies, cabbage, rubber, sweetcorn and rice. District officials are also encouraging more people in the community to become involved in animal husbandry, by raising cattle and poultry for sale and consumption.

Mr Bounpheng said crop yields in the Longcheng focal group are increasing year by year, so district officials are trying to identify markets for the produce.

The state-owned Nayoby Bank and Agriculture Development Bank are providing loans for people in the province to help them expand their farming operations, which is also helping to raise people out of poverty.

The Lao government defines poverty as not having enough food, lacking adequate clothing, not having permanent housing and lacking access to health, education and transportation services.


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Laos mulls development of cultural industries

March 15, 2013

Laos needs takes to steps to develop its cultural industries by making use of the unique traditions of the country’s 49 recognised ethnic groups to help drive the country’s development and promote its culture.

The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, working in collaboration with Unesco, opened the two-day ‘National Consultation on Cultural Industries in Laos and Validation Workshop,’ in Vientiane yesterday.

The objective of the workshop is to analyse the 2010 Baseline Study to forge ahead with Laos’ cultural industry ambitions.

Mr Bouangeun Xaphouvong

Deputy Minister Mr Bouangeun Xaphouvong delivered the opening remarks, before giving the floor over to speakers who presented the initial findings of a study on cultural industries and related documents, aiming to give an overview of the cultural industry. This was followed by a discussion session.

Discussion topics include identifying and adopting what lessons were leant from the initial study report that can be made use of in Laos and identifying priorities in terms of developing cultural industries in the country.

Mr Bouangeun said he believed the workshop would create a proper understanding among participants of the concept of cultural industry so they can make use of the lessons learned in developing the initiative in Laos.

Cultural industry development is a new thing for Laos,” Mr Bouangeun told the workshop participants.

The workshop is being attended by representatives from the ministry, the Unesco regional office based in Bangkok, and some foreign embassies to Laos including France and the Republic of Korea, whose countries are well recognised for their success in developing their cultural industries.

Laos is rich in cultures and traditions, Mr Bouangeun added, and has untapped potential to develop its cultural industries to drive economic growth and contribute to attaining the government’s goal to remove Laos from the list of least developed countries by 2020.

“Having 49 ethnic groups means Laos has 49 different rich cultures. To make culture one of the drivers of national economic development is to make culture become a cultural industry,” he told the workshop.

To reach the government’s target of graduating from least developed country status by 2020 towards gradually becoming an industrial country, Mr Bouangeun reiterated the need to also realise the country’s cultural industry ambitions.

“Developing our cultural industries will make our culture more diverse and modern, which will also enable our culture to contribute to national socio-economic development,” he said.

Head of the Culture Unit in the Unesco Bangkok office, Dr Tim Curtis, agreed that Laos is rich in culture. He stressed that the diverse cultures of the 49 ethnic groups and their traditions is a great asset as it creates unique cultural products and carries economic potential.

“Cultural industries are already proving to be strong assets and helping poverty alleviation in many countries,” he said, adding that it significantly contributes to income generation and job creation and represents over 10 percent of the gross domestic product of several Asian countries.

Director General of the ministry’s Fine Arts Department, Dr Bounthieng Siliphaphan, said it would take time to develop cultural industries in Laos, citing the experience of the Republic of Korea. The country is recognised as being successful in developing its cultural industries, but Korea spent more than ten years in the preparatory stage before achieving its current success.


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CLMV leaders agree on future links

March 13, 2013

(From left-right) Vietnamese PM Nguyen Tan Dung, Cambodian PM Hun Sen, Lao PM Thongsing Thammavong, Vice President of Myanmar Dr Sai Mauk Kham and Asean Secretary General Le Luong Minh shake hands.

(From left-right) Vietnamese PM Nguyen Tan Dung, Cambodian PM Hun Sen, Lao PM Thongsing Thammavong, Vice President of Myanmar Dr Sai Mauk Kham and Asean Secretary General Le Luong Minh shake hands.

The leaders of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV) agreed yesterday in Vientiane on future plans to narrow the development gap between the four newer Asean members and the other six member states.

Various agreements to this effect were reached at the 90-minute 6th Summit of the CLMV country leaders that took place in the Lao capital following the meetings of the CLMV foreign ministers and senior officials that convened yesterday and on Monday.

Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong presided over the summit, attended by his counterparts Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen of Cambodia, Nguyen Tan Dung of Vietnam, Myanmar Vice President Dr Sai Mauk Kham, and Asean Secretary General Le Luong Minh.

The CLMV leaders agreed to facilitate the cross-border movement of goods and people, according to the three-page joint statement of the summit.

They noted the success of Laos and Vietnam in launching the ‘one-stop service’ for customs and immigration inspection at the Dansavan-Lao Bao international border checkpoint and agreed to expand the system to other feasible checkpoints in the CLMV countries.

The aim is to create a network of single-stop inspection connectivity to facilitate trade, investment, tourism and transportation among the four countries, and boost economic development to close the gap with other Asean member states.

The leaders also agreed to deepen coordination to make the best use of the economic corridors across the four countries, namely the north-south economic corridor, east-west economic corridor, and southern economic corridor.

They reiterated their commitment to implement all existing agreements between and among the four countries to promote trade and investment in the CLMV countries and other nation states.

“We reaffirmed our commitment to working closely with each other to enhance our cooperation in accelerating Asean’s integration efforts,” the heads of state and government of the CLMV countries were quoted as saying in the joint statement afterwards.

Regarding agricultural, industry and energy cooperation, they agreed to mutually facilitate investment through relevant investment incentives in numerous important areas.

Focal areas will include the production and processing of agricultural products, mineral exploitation, renewable energy, sustainable hydropower development, oil and gas exploitation, telecommunications infrastructure, and service provision.

They agreed to further enhance their cooperation to exchange information and technologies and to develop joint research in the fields of agriculture, fisheries, forestry, livestock, veterinary science, aquaculture, industry and energy.

The four leaders also pledged to extend their efforts to realise the CLMV multilateral agreements on air services.

In addition, the summit participants recalled the outcome of the first CLMV Tourism Ministers Meeting held in September in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, when the Joint Plan on CLMV Tourism Cooperation for 2013-2015 was endorsed to boost growth in the tourism sector.

In 2012, the four countries registered increasing tourist arrivals totaling 14.8 million people, a growth of 19.7 percent compared to 2011.

To help develop their human resources, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar requested Vietnam to further extend the government scholarships it grants to citizens of the other three countries.

At the same time, they thanked the government of Vietnam for the scholarships provided in previous years.

The CLMV leaders also thanked the government of Japan for providing more than 157 billion kip (US$20 million) to finance various projects. Thanks also went to the Asean Secretariat for continued support in mobilising project funding.

The summit called upon the Asean countries and other development partners to continue their support and assistance to the four countries in realising remaining projects to enable them to narrow the development gap.

The leaders agreed to encourage the participation of the private sector to invest in the implementation of CLMV projects and reviewed the progress made in carrying out past projects.

The summit welcomed Myanmar’s offer to host the next summit in 2014.

The CLMV Summit was in itiated in 2004 to speed up the narrowing of the development gap between the four new and six older Asean member countries and accelerate Asean integration towards realising the Asean Economic Community by 2015.


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Lao Red Cross women promote gender equity

By Sisouphan Amphonephong
March 9, 2013

The Lao Red Cross held a special ceremony on Thursday to consider the traditional role of women and their part in promoting gender equity on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

Members of the organisation’s Women’s Union and Lao Trade Union and more than 20 other staff attended the event, which was also attended by the President of the Lao Red Cross, Mr Laoly Faiphengyua, and Deputy President of its Women’s Union, Ms Douangchan Kongfaly.

Speaking on behalf of the unions’ members, one woman stressed the importance of women’s inclusion and their role in promoting gender equity.

She encouraged Women’s Union members to strive harder for the advancement of women in their role as employees of the Lao Red Cross.

Local and international organisations in Laos work to promote the role and rights of women and protect their welfare and wellbeing, with various initiatives underway under the supervision of the Lao Women’s Union and international agencies.

International Women’s Day is observed every year in Laos by many offices and organisations, who hold sports events and entertainment activities to create a festive atmosphere and recognise the contribution made by women to society and the country’s development.


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ADB, World Bank: ‘Women should hold up half the sky in Laos’

March 4, 2013

All female team of UXO Laos Deminers, working in Dakdoung, Sekong Province, Laos. Photo: Pisay Souvansay / AusAID

Laos could reap greater benefits from the country’s rapid economic growth by reducing gender inequality and vulnerability in remote rural areas, according to a new joint report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank.

The ADB and World Bank launched the country gender assessment for Laos on Friday with the Lao National Commission for the Advancement of Women attending the launching ceremony.

The report said economic growth has also enhanced women’s ability to take full advantage of expanding economic opportunities, particularly in urban and lowland areas.

International experts have agreed that gender equality is a core development objective and is also smart economics, saying that it can enhance productivity, improve development outcomes for the next generation, and make institutions more representative.

The assessment presents gender issues and provides recommendations for the issues into three main areas of gender equality – endowment, economic opportunities, and agency.

“The country gender assessment for Laos has the subtitle of reducing vulnerability, and increasing opportunity for all women in the country. This is exactly what we would like to see in a dynamically changing Laos,” said ADB Country Director for Laos, Mr Chong Ghi Nai.

The report suggests that although the government’s commitment to achieving gender equality has progressed, persistent imbalances remain in human development endowments such as in health, education, and clean water and sanitation, particularly in remote areas.

Geographic, socio-cultural, and linguistic challenges also remain, the report said.

Regarding business, the private sector is creating opportunities for entrepreneurs in the country, and 30 to 40 percent of these new entrepreneurs are women. However, the report says, emerging opportunities and new risks affect women and men differently.

While women are active participants in the labour force, wage gaps persist and job options for women and men remain segregated.

In politics, the report says, women’s participation has steadily advanced, but their increasing representation within the government structures at central level has not filtered down to the provincial and local levels, despite efforts by the Lao Women’s Union to reach out to women from national to village level.

To address these issues, the assessment recommends expanding the coverage and quality of social services, expanding job opportunities through improved technical and vocational training, narrowing gender gaps in accessing productive assets, improving women’s involvement in infrastructure investments, reducing violence against women, improving capacity and institutional support for gender mainstreaming machinery, and supporting progress in women’s representation in government at national and local levels.

“As Laos continues along its development path, empowering women and girls will be key to translating the country’s economic growth and demographic dividend into development achievements,” said World Bank Country Director for Laos Ms Keiko Miwa.

The assessment has taken information and findings from recent literature and research on gender issues in Laos for ADB’s and World Bank’s country partnership strategies.

It will also contribute to the work of the Lao government and development partners by bringing the latest information on gender issues to the fore.


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Vietnam ranks largest investor in Laos

February 16, 2013

The Ministry of Planning and Investment has reported that, between 1989 and 2012, Vietnam was the largest foreign investor in Laos.

Since the Lao Government adopted a foreign investment promotion policy in 1989, Vietnamese investors have invested USD 4.9 billion in 429 projects.

The second and third largest investors for the period were Thailand (4 billion USD) and China (3.9 billion USD).

Meanwhile the Republic of Korea with a total investment value of US$748 million, France (US$490 million), Malaysia (US$430 million), Japan (US$428 million), the US (US$150 million), Singapore (US$134 million), and India (US$61 million) were among top ten largest investors in Laos.

The most popular fields for foreign investors are mining industry (accounting for 27 per cent), hydropower (25 per cent), agriculture, services, processing industry, hotels, restaurants, telecommunications, construction, industry, and banking.

The Lao Government has devised preferential policies, including tax relief to encourage foreign investors to operate in disadvantaged rural areas.

From 2011 to 2015, Laos aims to attract approximately US$15 billion in direct foreign investment (FDI) as a means of maintaining annual GDP growth rates above 8 per cent.


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Food security project reaps rewards in Vientiane province

February 16, 2013

Organic Farm located in Vang Vieng, a tourism-oriented town in Vientiane Province, Laos.

Organic Farm located in Vang Vieng, a tourism-oriented town in Vientiane Province, Laos.

Rice and other crops grown in Nam Houang village in Maed district, Vientiane province, are expected to improve in quality so that sufficient amounts can be grown for family consumption and market sale.

A project to promote food security has been carried out over the past five months by the Association for Improving Living Standards for Multi-ethnic People Adapted to Climate Change (AIMA), supported by the GEF Small Grant Programme of the United Nations Development Programme.

After getting under way in October, many of the project’s activities have proved successful and are well underway.

The objective of the project is to introduce new techniques to local farmers so they can grow organic rice and other crops such as morning glory, mint and sweetcorn.

If they can grow sufficient to sell they will be able to earn enough money so that they can give up slash and burn farming.

The project is also providing training on new and improved rice varieties, and how to make compost and bio-fertiliser.

If the people of Nam Houang village benefit from the project, the authorities hope to expand it to 33 more villages in the district and ultimately benefit about 26,000 people.

An irrigation dam costing 150 million kip is now being built and is about 75 percent complete. It is expected to supply water to about 10-15 hectares of farmland in the dry season, with later expansion to an area of about 30 hectares .

This irrigation system will help farmers to grow rice in the dry season as well as other crops for consumption and for sale in local markets.

Through the project, farmers in the village will learn how to grow rice and other crops organically and learn how to adapt to climate change.

In the past, most farmers in Nam Houang village have used traditional methods to grow vegetables and other cash crops and raise livestock after harvesting their rice. But they did not know about farming methods that produce better quality crops.

Village farmers also used a lot of chemicals when growing their crops to boost yields but were unaware of the risks to their health.


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President asks officials to work harder to realise Sam Sang

Party Secretary General and President Choummaly Sayasone has told officials to work harder to realise the Party’s newly-initiated directive on devolution to local authorities, called Sam Sang (the three builds).

The president made the advice at the two-day nationwide meeting to discuss the work required by officials at all levels to realise the three-build directive, which closed yesterday in Vientiane.

He instructed the ministries and the provincial authorities to dispatch more staff to where they are needed, in order to assist village authorities realise the directive to create strength in grass-roots communities and help alleviate poverty.

The president stated that the Party, government and all Lao people have a collective duty to realise the three-build directive, which aims to strengthen the nation as a whole.

The directive, which features in the Resolution of the 9th Party Congress, spells out how provinces are to be built up as strategy-making units, districts are to be strengthened in all regards, and villages are to become development units.

The three-build directive aims to realise the resolution of the 9th Party Congress, which set an ambitious goal to reduce poverty among poor families from the currently estimated 13 percent to less than 10 percent by 2015.

“If we are implementing the resolution in the right direction, we will achieve the goal,” the president stressed to those present at the meeting. “This is the main goal of the 9th resolution.”

Realising the three-build directive will automatically realise the Party’s four-breakthrough approach, which was also outlined in the 9th congress, Mr Choummaly said.

The fact that the directive will transfer more projects and work responsibilities to local authorities will help them participate more fully in the development process, such as outlining plans based on local potential including identifying what crops should be planted where, he said.

“This will enable us to make full use of local intellect, creative ideas and potential,” he told the officials present.

In order to realise the directive and maximise local potential, the president instructed the relevant officials to properly analyse what level of delegation and responsibilities should be transferred to provincial, district and village authorities.

However, there is also a need to assess whether those authorities have the capacity to take on such responsibilities at this point in time, he qualified.

The president stressed the need to attach greater importance to human resource development and better train younger staff to meet the growing need to carry out work effectively, especially in terms of advising people in grass roots communities.

“We shouldn’t let local people carry out activities by themselves, especially agricultural activities,” he said. “We should do whatever we can to make villages and grass roots communities strengthened in all regards.”

However, the president noted that the delegation of responsibilities and benefits to local authorities has been done slowly, and that some ministries are reluctant to hand them over to local authorities. He suggested that those concerned work through the issues but warned them to do it carefully.

Fifteen ministries, and three districts of each province, covering 108 villages, have been selected to launch the pilot scheme for carrying out the three-build directive. The directive was put into implementation in October last year.


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Agricultural production central to development in Vientiane province

By Meuangkham Noradeth and Kheuy Xaysomboun
January 26, 2013

This site in Longcheng is being cleared to build a market so that villagers can sell their crops here.

Agricultural production is key for improving the quality of life in the two focal development points of Longcheng and Hom in Xaysomboun district, Vientiane province.

Improved farming and animal husbandry can help to improve local people’s living standards under government plans to eradicate poverty nationwide by 2020.

Poor families in the district have depended on farming and animal husbandry for their livelihood for many centuries, and encouraging greater productivity is vital for raising people above the poverty line.

But many villagers lack knowledge of modern farming methods, and assistance from agricultural technicians is essential to increase the quality and quantity of crop yields.

Xaysomboun is on the list of the 47 poorest districts in Laos, so district officials are working non-stop to develop the community and improve villagers’ circumstances.

Besides this, assistance from the government, international organisations and other agencies is important to help the district achieve basic poverty alleviation and meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 as targeted.

Longcheng and Om contain 10 villages that are home to 1,403 families of 8,389 people. At present 319 families are classified as living in poverty but their living standards are improving year by year, said the Head of Longcheng focal development point, Mr Bounpheng Phimphongs avanh.

Longcheng and Hom comprise people of the Lao Loum, Hmong and Khmu ethnic groups. Some families are struggling to better their lot after being affected by extreme weather events in recent years .

Last fiscal year, large areas of rice fields were flooded, vegetable crops were destroyed and livestock died during heavy tropical storms.

Some sections of road leading to these two areas were cut off by landslides, meaning villagers were unable to transport their crops to nearby sales points.

Last fiscal year, the government focussed on improving basic infrastructure, especially roads, schools, dispensaries, artesian wells and irrigation, because these will further development in the district, said Mr Bounpheng.

Access roads are essential because it enables villagers to transport their crops to markets, which is essential for them to earn an income.

District officials are encouraging villagers to plant a variety of crops, includi ng sweetcorn, on 179 hectares of land, oranges on an area of 16 hectares, and rice and other crops on 126 hectares.

They are also encouraging more villagers to become involved in animal husbandry, so they can raise cattle and poultry for sale and their own consumption.

Funding contributions are essential to improve basic infrastructure in Vientiane province and help lift the province out of poverty.

The province is home to 87,815 families. At present 4,828 of those families are living in poverty, but provincial officials hope that all poverty will be wiped out by 2020.

The province has 504 villages and, while all communities have road access, some are difficult to reach in the rainy season.

The average income of poor families in the province is now not less than 180,000 kip per month, indicating that people’s living standards are improving year by year.

The Lao government defines poverty as not having enough food, lacking adequate clothing, not having permanent housing and lacking access to health, education and transportation services.


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