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

Private sector urged to get involved with infrastructure development

Source: Vientiane Times, June 5, 2017
Infrastructure development under the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) model is taking shape in Laos as the government requires huge capital investment to improve road networks and other facilities.
Lao economists have supported the initiative, saying that with the government’s limited funding, it’s critical to encourage the involvement of the private sector to develop infrastructure.
Independent and experienced economist Dr ManaSouthichak told Vientiane Times last week that “private investment in developing roads or expressways is a good way to reduce the government’s budget burden, but the government needs to ensure the integrity of the project as well.”
Dr Mana referred to a toll on Road No. 16 in Champassak province where the government allowed Duangdy Bridge-Road Construction Company to upgrade the road and collect fees from motorists for a period of 45 years.
The toll road generated large numbers of complaints from members of the public since the developer started to collect fees from motorists in August last year.
“This project is not fair for the public,” Dr Mana said, saying that private companies needed to be allowed to build new roads (not upgrade existing roads) and collect fees from motorists. Those who do not want to pay the fees can then use the existing roads.
A senior economist at the National Economic Research Institute, Dr Leeber Leebouapao agreed with this opinion, saying the government needed to create options for local people, not forcing them to pay the tolls.
Currently, Laos plans to build an expressway from Vientiane to northern and southern parts of the country to facilitate transport as well as boost economic growth.
A planned Vientiane-Vangvieng expressway over the distance of 113.7 km is under a feasibility study. The project, which is estimated to cost US$1.4 billion, is set to be developed in parallel with the existing Road 13 North and the Laos-China railway project.
Another planned expressway will be built from Vientiane’s city centre to Xaythany district over the distance of 14 km, passing through 13 villages in Xaysettha district and six villages in Xaythany district.
The government recently approved construction of the project which expected to cost between US$150 million and US$200 million.
Nevertheless, Dr Leeber is optimistic that the private-public partnerships will help the government attract capital from private investment to sustain economic growth.
In 2016, the overall investment across Laos increased above the set plan by 24.2 percent year-on-year, driven by private sector and bank credit, according to the government’s latest report.
The government planned to mobilise 34.5 trillion kip last year but more than 42.85 trillion kip has been pumped into the investment sector, representing 33.1 percent of Gross Domestic Product.
However, domestic and foreign private entrepreneurs represent more than half of the entire investment sector.

Laos prime minister concerned over banana plantations

Source: Reuters, May15,2017
The prime minister of Laos has voiced concern over widespread chemical usage on banana plantations after a Reuters report on Chinese-run farms in the Southeast Asian country.

Laos' Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith delivers a speech  in Hanoi, Vietnam 26 October 2016.  REUTERS/Luong Thai Linh/Pool

Laos’ Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith delivers a speech in Hanoi, Vietnam 26 October 2016. REUTERS/Luong Thai Linh/Pool

Local land handovers unauthorised: Minister

Source: Vientiane Times, May 30, 2017
Community land which has been handed over by village authorities to investors should be all taken back as collective property because the actions of local authorities are against the law.
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Mr Sommad Pholsena tabled this direction in debate at the recent session of the National Assembly (NA).
The assembly quizzed the government about the spread of village authorities giving community land to investors, individuals, companies and organisations for rent or granted in exchange for community roads or other infrastructure facilities.
“I would like to propose the National Assembly as well as Local People’s Assemblies annul the land authorisations made by village authorities,” Mr Sommad said. He referred to the Land Law, which he said gave clear stipulation on the allocation of agricultural land use rights.“The district or municipal administration is in charge of considering and approving the allocation of land use rights for agricultural land under its management to individuals and organisations to use by issuing land certificates to them,” the minister stated from article No.18 of the law.
“These land certificates are valid for three years. During this period, if land has been used in conformity with objectives and regulations, and if there is no objection or claim, or those claims have already been settled, then the individuals and organisations have the right to apply to the land management authorities at the provincial or city level for the issuance of a land title for long-term use rights,” he continued reading the stipulation in the law.
Mr Sommad also highlighted the spread of offences made against stipulations in the law regarding allocation of forest land use rights, use of land around bodies of water, and determining the scope of construction land use rights.
He promised to inspect the offences related to the responsibilities of his ministry such as the issuance of land titles. In an example, he spoke about village chiefs selling community land to private companies or individuals, who later received land titles from the ministry.
Such issuance of land titles would include cases when private companies or individuals wanted to use the land to secure investment finance, according to the minister. He asked NA members and members of provincial people’s councils to keep a close eye on these activities and inform the ministry about any related offences.

Xayaboury Suspends Banana Farms

Source: Lao News Agency (KPL), 26/5/2017

Phouthong Sivongsa

(KPL) ‘Xayaboury authorities have permanently suspended plantations of aroma bananas totally sized more than 360 ha, and plan to grow alternative cash crops to replace banana farming.’

The Planning and Cooperation Division under the Xayaboury Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Department told local media on May 24 that the Xayaboury Governor issued an order suspending aroma banana farming and banning further expansion of banana farms last year.

Laos-China railway construction ‘progressing well’

Source: Vientiane Times, May 17, 2017

Construction of the Laos-China railway is gathering steam with many tunnels being bored despite rainfall, officials said yesterday.
All three tunnels in LuangNamtha province are being bored with the Boten Tunnel having progressed the furthest at more than 50 metres, project coordinator for LuangNamtha province MrChanthachoneKeolakhone told Vientiane Times yesterday.

Plans gather steam for railway linking Vientiane to Vietnamese seaport

Source: Vientiane Times, May 18, 2017

Work is gearing up for the planned building of a railway to connect Vientiane to the Vung Ang seaport in Vietnam after the two countries agreed to move forward with the project.

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