The government of Laos is moving forward with a plan to reclaim vehicles from Party and state leaders amid a renewed push for austerity.
Officials from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Finance held a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the status of a new decree on state vehicles, which entered into force in September last year.
Government Decree 599 on State Vehicles, signed off on by Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh, was aimed at ensuring the redistribution of state vehicles fairly among government offices and employees.
Tuesday’s meeting sought to reduce the number of cars in the Party’s fleet and redistribute these to other state bodies with an insufficient number of vehicles.
According to Vientiane Times, the exact number of vehicles that have been withdrawn is not yet known while figures are still being collected from the relevant state bodies.
The move to reclaim or replace leaders’ cars has its roots in a surprise move by former Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, who famously auctioned off leaders’ luxury vehicles in 2017, ordering them replaced with a fleet of Toyota Camrys.
The former Prime Minister raised the issue of frivolous luxury vehicles when addressing central and local departments, singling out leaders driving Mercedes-Benz and BMW brand vehicles. He said that these vehicles would be reclaimed, and sold through a bidding process.
Meanwhile, shortly after taking office, Prime Minister of Laos, Dr. Phankham Viphavanh, told the National Assembly in August last year that the government would cut spending on state vehicles.
A report released last year found up to 30,000 vehicles registered to the state, with Prime Minister Phankham issuing Decree 599 shortly afterward.
Under the decree, Party and government leaders are divided into four levels, with senior leaders receiving two vehicles and 200 liters of petrol per month, while those at the lowest ranking receive one car and 120 liters of fuel per month.