Switzerland has agreed to contribute US$18 million to help Laos reduce poverty and achieve the targets set in the National Socio-Economic Plan.
A grant agreement for the funding was signed recently by the Director of Cooperation for the Mekong Region of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Mr Tim Enderlin, and Deputy Minister of Finance, Ms Thipphakone Chanthavongsa.
The grant assistance was provided through the Poverty Reduction Fund (PRF) Phase 3 (2017-2020) and will be used to improve access to basic services for the country’s poorest communities, according to the SDC.
It is envisaged that the overall goal of the Poverty Reduction Fund will be achieved through inclusive community level and local development processes with an emphasis on ensuring sustainability.
The main objectives of the Fund are to improve the delivery of public services at the village level in remote upland areas, including providing access to health and education facilities, along with safe and reliable water for consumption and irrigation.
Other objectives are to strengthen citizen engagement in local development and encourage the adoption of responsive and accountable participatory planning, financing and implementation approaches for service delivery.
The project is designed to increase participation within communities, in particular among women and people belonging to certain ethnic groups, in local development processes. It operates in 1,820 villages in 43 districts of Huaphan, Xieng Khuang, Luang Namtha, Luang Prabang, Oudomxay, Phongsaly, Savannakhet, Xekong, Attapeu and Saravan provinces where the incidence of poverty is high.
Each village selected for PRF assistance will receive a financial contribution of between US$35,000-50,000 a year to support their community development priorities.
The Fund will also continue to develop the capacity of local authorities to plan, implement and monitor local development processes in partnership with the local population.
Since 2002, the PRF, with the support of the World Bank, has established itself as the Lao government’s main vehicle to reduce rural poverty and provide public infrastructure in rural areas through participatory processes.
The PRF is currently the largest community-driven development project in Laos with a total amount of about US$80 million, co-financed by the World Bank, Australia (DFAT), Switzerland (SDC), and the government of Laos.
Since 2008, Switzerland has contributed a total of about US$25 million to the budget of the Poverty Reduction Fund.
This contribution has allowed the Fund to expand its activities to new districts, to enhance its work to help the poorest people, and to promote the value of strong community participation in local development processes at the community and local and national levels.
By renewing Switzerland’s support, the PRF can expect to obtain meaningful development results on a large scale, to contribute to the scaling up of the Fund’s approaches into local government operations and ultimately support Laos’ effort to graduate from Least Developed Country status.
Source: Vientiane Times