Monday, September 8, 2008

PM satisfied with socio-economic development

Laos will achieve success in socio-economic development this fiscal year despite rising inflation, Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh said last week.

Mr Bouasone was speaking at a meeting on Friday to review socio-economic development during the 2007/2008 fiscal year.

Addressing finance and planning officials at the International Training and Cooperation Centre in Vientiane , Mr Bouasone said economic growth was on track to reach 7.9 percent at the end of the 2007/2008 fiscal year.

This was only 0.1 percent lower than originally forecast despite the challenges posed by the rising prices of fuel and food items since the end of last year.

This achievement was made possible thanks to the dedicated efforts of all levels of the administration, every sector, the contribution of officials and Party members, and especially the determination of all Lao people to achieve better living conditions, he said.

Mr Bouasone said the service sector would grow by 9.9 percent this fiscal year, about 2.9 percent more than originally forecast. Average annual per capita income will reach 7.4 million kip (US$810), exceeding the original forecast of 7.2 million kip (US$728), he said.

The value of the kip is stable while foreign reserves are increasing, enabli ng the bank to manage its policy effectively. Export value has reached 52 percent of the annual plan, and is about 14 percent higher than the plan of the previous year. The trade deficit remains low and the average inflation rate is 7.6 percent.

Mr Bouasone said the government had a large enough budget to ensure expenditure on prioritised investment projects and debt clearance. Private investment, especially foreign investment, is booming in the country and comprises about 86 percent of total private investment.

Regarding the implementation of the socio-cultural development plan, he said the government was concentrating on the development of village groups, especially those in remote and mountainous areas. This had resulted in a decline in the number of poor families, as expected.

The government is reforming the education sector by raising the number of school years from 11 to 12. The government is also focusing on the development of vocational education.

Public health services now cover a wide area, including towns and rural areas. The government is also on alert for the surveillance of disease outbreaks in the country.

The information and culture sector has seen development, with more people having access to information, which aimed to promote the country's fine culture. Development of the tourism sector has occurred in parallel with sustainable protection of the environment.

The government has agreed to increase the salaries of government officials, and revise its policy to help retired officials and those who contributed physically and intellectually to the cause of the revolution.

Much attention has been paid to the development of sport, as part of efforts to host the 25 th SEA Games in December 2009.

Mr Bouasone said although the government had achieved success in the country's socio-economic development plan, there were still many problems, which the sectors concerned needed to address.

He said the government must build a stronger foundation in the economic and finance sector, ensuring continual economic growth in the right direction. The government must also address challenges concerning debt, fiscal deficit, higher fuel prices and money leakages from the customs and tax sector.

Mr Bouasone also noted economic development was not occurring in parallel with social development and culture, which reflected the love of young people for an indulgent lifestyle. In addition, the education system was not supplying a skilled labour force as required.