What were the government’s main successes last year and what should be the goals in 2019?

Laos is developing year by year and investment means change is happening everywhere in the country. Vientiane Times hit the town to talk with people about what they thought of the changes fostered by the government last year and what they hope to see achieved in 2019.

 

Ms Souny Sisakda, resident of Vientiane province: Many things have changed for the better in Laos.  The government is more open and transparent now. Digital media allows greater access to National Assembly meetings and we can scrutinise discussions and decisions made there to a much higher degree than in the past. When we hear Assembly members talk about social, economic and environmental problems we are able to understand the problems too. It’s hard to say what the government achieved last year because many problems are ongoing. I’m from a village quite far from Keo-oudom town and our basic infrastructure is in need of urgent attention.  Many of our bridges remain old and broken.  Reconstruction on some began and was discontinued last year before the job was complete.  I hope they can finish all the work soon.  I would also like to see the government focus on employment initiatives that see real opportunities and rewards go to rural villagers. Most villagers rely on forest products to earn money because there are no jobs available.

Mr Vankham Phongsavanthong, a resident of Vientiane: Last year was designated Visit Laos Year in an effort to bring in more international visitors. I don’t know how many more visitors the campaign actually brought in, but I know many provinces spent a great deal of extra money on ceremonies and parades to mark the occasion.  I question whether spending this money was worth it. Now, we’re starting Visit Laos-China Year and all of this extra expenditure will again take place. I urge the government and officials to stop wasting money on these big welcoming ceremonies. This money would be better spent on additional advertising overseas to bring visitors here.  Additional advertising would mean more visitors and hence more ongoing jobs for local residents. Besides, most people don’t care if there is an extravagant ceremony or not when they come here.  Such events are not what attract people to Laos or encourage them to return.  Good food and laughter in clean and beautiful surroundings with friendly and hospitable people is what will draw people back to Laos.  We should all be spending our time focusing on that.
 
Mr Bounpone Sivnongxay, a Vientiane businessman: The public sector hired fewer people last year and fewer again this year in an effort, I believe, to cut costs. This is a good thing as the government bureaucracy is already too big.  One of the problems is that many government workers paid money to get their job.  Even though they weren’t necessarily the best person for the position, they remain in the job today.  This means public institutions have not improved over time.  The government should make sure that only the best candidates, not the ones with the money, are chosen to administer public affairs.

Ms Chin, a resident of Vientiane: The worst thing to happen last year was the failure of the hydropower dam in Attapeu province because of the lives that were lost and the widespread destruction that resulted.  I know that many people, including from government and private organisations, worked well with each other in the aftermath of the flooding. Now it seems nobody is talking about it anymore. I would like mainstream media outlets like Vientiane Times to look closely at these affected areas and talk to people there. Any ongoing problems should be highlighted so authorities know how much more work needs to be done.
 Mr Sangvone, a resident of Vientiane: I’m happy that we will soon have a railway that enables fast travel between China and Vientiane.  It is apparently already at least 40 percent complete. I heard that some people who were displaced by the railway received quite good compensation and I’m glad to hear that villagers are not being exploited by the developers.
 
Ms Phokham, a Vientiane businesswoman: I don’t know much about politics. I’m an organic farmer so that’s what I mainly know about. I know that the government says it would like to help and support organic crops, but I would like them to really work with us. There are so many problems and it’s extremely difficult to survive as an organic farmer. For instance, we don’t have a permanent market where we can sell our crops.  We have to move from place to place throughout the week to places that are unsuitable and where sales are low.  A permanent, central marketplace for fresh produce would be ideal.

By Patithin Phetmeuangphuan
(Latest Update February 9, 2019)


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