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Laos’ new PM begins work by spelling out problems and promising to solve them

The Patuxai (Victory Gate) monument. Vientiane, Laos. Photo: Wuttichok Panichiwarapun / Shutterstock. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

VIENTIANE, Mar 25, 2021, Vientiane Times/ANN. The newly-elected Prime Minister, Phankham Viphavanh, has agreed with National Assembly (NA) members that Laos faces major challenges and problems, saying that acknowledgement of these issues is a good start to addressing them, The Star reported.

“As policy-makers and public administrators, first of all we have to accept that problems exist in order to find ways to solve them,” Phankham shas announced.

“If we do not accept these facts, we will not be able to solve these problems correctly,” he added.

Phankham made the comment when addressing a NA session designed to give him a platform to interact with lawmakers.

Earlier, NA members engaged in a lively debate on the proposed five-year National Socio-Economic Development and state budget plans as well as advising the government on ways to improve its performance.

During the debate session, lawmakers presented a wide range of issues, ranging from problems involving economic difficulties, human resource development, and working and cultural issues, which Mr Phankham agreed with lawmakers that they must all be addressed.

Phankham thanked NA members for their sincerity in raising their concerns and suggesting measures to address obstacles to development.

“On behalf of the ninth government cabinet, I would like to say that I highly value the comments made by NA members, who represent the Lao ethnic people nationwide in formulating the 9th five-year socio-economic development plan as well as the budget plan to be implemented over the next five years,” Phankham said.

“The government would like to accept these comments and consider and use them as references when improving the plan as well as the implementation of the plan. [The government] will increase efforts to address these problems,” he said.

According to Mr Phankham, after listening to the debates, he and his work team had compiled the problems presented into five main categories, which the government would impose measures to address them.

The first concern of NA members centred on the use of GDP as an indicator of national development. They claimed it was no longer relevant because it could not secure or create jobs or distribute wealth among the Lao ethnic people.

The second concern was that most of the economy operated outside the formal system, meaning that the informal business sector was larger than the formal business sector. The problem with this is that informal business activities are unsustainable because they have no access to secure markets.

The third concern raised by NA members is that the imposition of laws and regulations to administer the socio-economic sector is irrelevant, and that the implementation of these rules is impractical.

The fourth concern was that some state agencies and organization administrators did not clearly understand the new economic mechanism and the need for Laos to adapt to global economic integration.

As a result, these agencies were not able to impose the regulations, laws and rules needed to control and promote business activities.

The fifth concern centred on the fact that people feel they have to rely on external assistance and other forms of support. In addition, some officials are totally reliant on the aid provided by higher authorities.

NA members said it was necessary for Lao society to build a culture of self-reliance.

Meanwhile, the Lao Ministry of Health on Thursday (March 25) urged authorities and people countrywide to continue their efforts in implementing preventive measures to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Deputy Director General of the Department of Communicable Diseases Control under the Lao Ministry of Health, Sisavath Soutthaniraxay, told a press conference in Lao capital Vientiane on Thursday it was essential that every person and all relevant authorities strictly abide by the new normal guidelines and rules set by the government.

Sisavath added that the public should avoid leaving home for unnecessary reasons, wear masks when going outdoors or visiting risky places, and frequently wash hands with gels or soaps.

On Wednesday, a total of 3,114 people entered Laos through international border checkpoints. The temperature of each person entering Laos was checked and no one showed signs of fevers.

Some 3,168 people have been put under quarantine at 35 accommodation centers across the country, said Sisavath.

The total number of Covid-19 confirmed cases in Laos remained at 49 and 45 patients have recovered.

Laos reported its first two confirmed COVID-19 cases on March 24 last year.

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