Working towards greater community control over land, forests and natural resources

Govt mulls fairer compensation policy for people affected by development projects

Vientiane Times: January 3, 2018

Property owners will receive fairer and more prompt compensation when they lose their land or buildings to make way for a development scheme, once a newly-drafted law is passed and promulgated, a policy developer has said.
A draft law on the stabilisation of livelihoods stipulates conditions to ensure that people who have to give up their property in these circumstances will enjoy better living conditions than previously, a member of the law drafting committee of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Mr Voravouth Sinthavong, said yesterday.
People who suffer losses will not only be fully compensated but also offered permanent income-earning jobs in the area they relocate to.
“The draft law also stipulates that the relevant sectors are obliged to help people adapt to their new village during the transition period,” he told Vientiane Times.
The law was debated in the government’s cabinet meeting for December and is scheduled to be submitted to the National Assembly’s ordinary session for debate and approval in April.
Currently, compensation for property affected by a development project is made in line with Prime Minister’s Decree No. 84. This stipulates that the compensation awarded must ensure that people are provided with better or similar living conditions compared to their circumstances prior to relocation.
The new law is seen as being more comprehensive as it also attaches great importance to providing permanent jobs to those affected, along with defining a timeframe for the payment of compensation.
Under the draft law, the project developer is obliged to provide basic infrastructure in a new village to ensure the newcomers’ living conditions are acceptable, in line with the stabilisation of livelihoods plan adopted by the government.
The developer is also obliged to help the newcomers during the transition period, including providing food, daily essentials, and the equipment needed for people to make a living.
Meanwhile, the relevant government bodies are responsible for training and passing on income-generating knowhow to villagers, including crop cultivation, animal husbandry, fisheries and service provision among others.
Under Article 22 of the draft law, compensation for the loss of property must be completed within 24 months after the stabilisation of livelihoods plan is adopted by the government.
However, the compensation period can be extended for another 12 months upon approval by the stabilisation of livelihoods committee.
If a project developer fails to take action to compensate people within 12 months after the plan is adopted, the committee will revise the compensation unit price in line with market prices so that property owners are not taken advantage of.
Previous experience suggests that some investors paid compensation several years after they were granted permission to carry out a project, leaving local people disadvantaged.
The compensation policy under the draft law offers people the option of moving to a new village as arranged by the project developer in collaboration with the government, or being given compensation in cash.
Once the law is promulgated, it will be the frame of reference for uniform implementation of the stabilisation of livelihoods.
The law also stipulates conditions and policy for the stabilisation of livelihoods for those living in rural hardship communities, offering options for them to move and live in new communities with better infrastructure and facilities.

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