Vientiane Times, 29th April 2015
A senior parliamentarian has called for the government to put action in place to ensure transparent concessions over investment projects in order to maximise the benefits obtained and the utilisation of resources. Chairwoman of the Committee for Economics, Planning and Finance of the National Assembly (NA) Dr Souvanpheng Bouphanouvong made the comments in a
press conference last week during her attendance to the three-day government meeting where the cabinet, Vientiane mayor and provincial governors met.
Some investment concessions granted to investors have not been carried out in a transparent manner and they are not offered through bidding processes so the government does not obtain the best option, she said. Without scrutinising criteria, reports have emerged that some investors have no financial capability to implement the projects after being granted the concessions, while some investors just held the concessions for resale and made lucrative profits without any investment, causing the state to lose out on maximum benefits.
Dr. Souvanpheng observed that Laos has lost too many resources in exchange for high-level economic growth, saying that the country has not evaluated the loss of natural resources and how much the high-level growth has actually cost. She agreed that certain policies should have been offered during the early years when Laos began opening for external investment in order to attract
the investors but stressed that these days conditions have changed.
“Now our country is viewed as a jewel for investors. We have resources. We are advantaged as a negotiator,” she said.
The chairwoman reiterated that the government should choose the best investors who offer the best option through transparent processes when it comes to granting project concessions in order to maximise benefits. She also spoke strongly on the importance to provide open information regarding investment projects so that members of the public can participate in following up to ensure that the investors will not take any illegal advantage or breach the country’s regulations and laws.
In addition, she also expressed concern over the potential shortfall in revenue collection for this fiscal year, which will end in September. The Ministry of Finance admitted that it has a difficult task in collecting revenue to meet the target set in the fiscal year’s budget plan approved by the NA.
Over the past six months, the ministry has collected only 13 trillion kip. It will seek to collect another 17 trillion kip during the last six months of the fiscal year, Minister of Finance Dr Lien Thikeo told local media in the press conference organised on the same occasion. In this regard, the chairwoman suggested that the government needs to strictly enforce financial discipline and address the issues exposed by the State Auditing Organisation.
Dr Souvanpheng underlined the need for the government to strengthen coordination mechanisms among various departments as well as supervision mechanisms in implementing its policies and plans. She also praised the government’s achievements in national development affairs and the solemn efforts made in terms of addressing emerging issues.