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Govt warns it will scrap inactive land concession projects

The government has warned that it will revoke the licences of investors whose land concession projects have not made any development or progress. 
The move follows a government inspection of more than 1,000 land concession projects, which found that 138 such projects covering a total of 22,000 hectares had failed to implement agreements signed with the government.
The Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Mr Sommad Pholsena, told a news conference, held on the sidelines of a meeting of cabinet members, provincial governors and the Vientiane Mayor in the capital on Wednesday, that inactive projects were delaying national development and the issue needs to be addressed promptly.   
“Many of the 138 land concession projects have seen almost no progress, and they have not paid their tax obligations to the government,” he said.
The inspection of land concession projects was done by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment in cooperation with the Ministries of Agriculture and Forestry, Energy and Mines, and Industry and Commerce.
Early this month, Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith made a decision to establish a task force committee to address this issue and to prevent companies from delaying the development of land concession projects.  
The committee is chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Sonexay Siphandone, and comprises representatives from line ministries. The committee organised a meeting to frame its work plan and measures to address this issue from now until September.
In May 2017, authorities rescinded the concessions of 15 mining operations after they failed to develop the projects in line with agreements signed with the government. Officials said some companies just held the concessions without implementing them, purely in order to resell them.
For more than half a decade, the government suspended the consideration of all new mining projects after discovering that several ventures had failed to comply with agreements that they had signed.
As of 2016, an estimated 657 companies had been granted authorisation to perform surveys and excavation as part of 942 projects. Of these, 226 companies were sanctioned by the central government to undertake 392 projects.
The government of Laos has a policy to attract domestic and foreign entrepreneurs to invest in various development projects, such as hydropower plants, mining operations and agricultural projects.
The move is aimed at boosting economic growth and generating jobs for the local people to alleviate poverty. The government strongly welcomes all companies that are keen to invest in Laos, but those who fail to implement contracts signed with the government are bound to have their licences revoked.
Mr Sommad said the government will also inspect projects that have impacted the country’s environment. Members of the public and local authorities can inform the government about such projects through hotlines and other channels.
He said his ministry will set up special teams in different regions to promptly address issues related to projects that are harming the environment.

By Somsack Pongkhao
(Latest Update June 28, 2019)

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