Category Archives: International Cooperation

Public Financial Management A Path To Maximize Return On Investment in Future of Laos: World Bank

Public Financial Management

With a growing population and rapidly developing and urbanizing socio-economy requiring investment in human resources and infrastructure, the calls on public finances in Laos are larger than ever.

These needs are spread across all the sectors you’d find in most countries, along with some particular challenges like unexploded ordnance (UXO).

To fund responses to these needs, the government of Lao PDR is working with partners on improving the management of public finances in the ASEAN member country of some 6.8 million. These include such names as the World Bank and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Budgeting for present and future needs is a must. World Bank has a handy explainer:

“Ultimately, an improved PFM system will benefit all Lao citizens and provide them with more information on how the national budget is used.

“Strong management of public finances means more effective and equitable delivery of public services to all Lao people including education, healthcare, energy, and law enforcement.”

What is Public Financial Management (PFM)?
“PFM stands for Public Financial Management. It relates to the way governments manage public funds and the impacts on the growth of the economy and the wellbeing of citizens. Managing public resources involves how the government earns money, known as revenue, and how the government spends money, or expenditure. Revenue may come from taxes, money earned by state enterprises, or foreign aid, for example. Expenditures are, for instance, government wages, purchasing goods and services, and spending on infrastructure and public services.”

How does PFM work in Lao PDR?

“PFM begins with Budget Formulation and Preparation. Officials at the Ministry of Finance look at how much money the government will earn from all possible sources, and how much money the government intends to spend.

Using this information, the government develops a Budget Plan, which determines how much money should be allocated for each sector and Ministry. The National Assembly is responsible for approving this yearly Budget Plan.

Once the Budget Plan is approved, Budget Execution begins. This is how the money gets spent; that is, how the money goes from being collected to being used. In modern PFM systems, Budget Execution is done through an IT system called Financial Management Information System (FMIS). Lao PDR is currently upgrading to a modern FMIS with funding from the World Bank.

At the end of each year, the Ministry of Finance prepares a document that summarizes how the money was spent. Then the State Audit Organization validates the information by auditing the annual financial statements. With the new FMIS system, reporting and auditing will become easier, faster, and more transparent.”

Who is supporting PFM in Lao PDR?

“To assist the government in implementing PFM reforms, the World Bank has provided US$20 million to the Lao Government for the Enhancing PFM through ICT and Skills (E-FITS) Project (2019 – 2025), which will finance the implementation of a new financial management information system and strengthen the PFM capacity of staff at the Ministry of Finance. In addition, the Delegation of the European Union to the Lao PDR has provided financial support to the World Bank and the Ministry of Finance in the form of a €4,900,000 Trust Fund for the Public Finance Management Reform Program (2018 – 2022), which will support the following areas:

  1. Strengthening budget preparation and execution: to ensure budgets are more realistic and efficiently spent.
  2. Public procurement: to ensure that the government gets good value for money when it buys goods and services or builds infrastructure.
  3. Tax administration: to ensure the government generates revenue from the taxes paid by businesses and citizens.
  4. Reform Coordination: to support coordination and cooperation between government agencies and to built a monitoring and evaluation system for the PFM Reform progress.”

How will this benefit Lao PDR?

“The World Bank’s PFM program builds the skills of the Ministry of Finance, improves how the country’s public finances are used, and helps the government to make decisions at the right time.

Ultimately, an improved PFM system will benefit all Lao citizens and provide them with more information on how the national budget is used. Strong management of public finances means more effective and equitable delivery of public services to all Lao people including education, healthcare, energy, and law enforcement.”

PFM Expert Andrew Lawson says via GSDRC:
PFM refers to the set of laws, rules, systems,
and processes used by sovereign nations (and sub-national governments), to mobilize revenue, allocate public funds, undertake public spending, account for funds and audit results. It encompasses a broader set of functions than financial management and is commonly conceived as a cycle of six phases, beginning with policy design and ending with external audit and evaluation (Figure 1). A large number of actors engage in this “PFM cycle” to ensure it operates effectively and transparently, whilst preserving accountability.”

Christchurch Calamity: Laos’ PM Thongloun Offers Condolences to New Zealand, Condemns Terrorism

Prime Minister of Laos, Thongloun Sisoulith on behalf of the government on Monday sent a message of deepest sympathy to New Zealand counterpart, PM Jacinda Adern following Christchurch terror attacks on March 15.

Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith on behalf of the government of Laos on Monday sent “a message of deepest sympathy” to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, over the mass shooting that took place in Christchurch on March 15.

Carried by Lao media outlets including state-run print media Vientiane Times and KPL Lao News Agency, the English version of the PM’s statement read:

“We are deeply shocked to learn about the mass shooting in the Masjid Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch on March 15, which caused tremendous loss of life and left many people wounded.”

“On behalf of the Lao government and people, I would like to express our deepest condolences and sympathy to Your Excellency, and the government and people of New Zealand, particularly the families of the victims of this tragic incident.”

“The Lao PDR strongly condemns this act of terrorism and stands with the international community in the fight against international terrorism in order to maintain peace and stability in the region and the world.”

“I am confident that under Your Excellency’s leadership, the government and people of New Zealand will be able to overcome this tragedy and restore life to normal.”

Act Green for Greener Mekong River As Efforts Rewarded via Social Media

Act Green, Get Clean with Mekong River Commission

The Mekong River is a source of water for millions, the world’s most productive freshwater fishery, and a lifeline shared by people of five nations. What better reasons to “Act Green for a Greener Mekong”?

Now, our own green actions have a chance to be recognized and rewarded as the region celebrates Mekong Day on 4 April 2019.

To be eligible for a reward, first you’ll have to be a fan of the Mekong River Commission on Facebook.

After that, all you have to do is:

a) take a photo or/and video of your green action.

b) post on your Facebook in public mode with hashtags #GreenMekongDay and #MekongRiverCommission.

You can share with what are you doing to achieve green goals such as to reduce plastic bags, recycle waste and encourage others to be green and create as many posts on these topics as you’d like until March 29, 2019.

Go Green with the Mekong River Commission

Going  Green with the Mekong River Commission

The MRC will select each week top 10 of Facebook posts with the most interactions (likes, shares, and comments) to select one Winner of the week who will receive a prize of US$50.

The top posts/photos/videos will be showcased at a ceremony for Mekong Day 2019 in Vientiane, Lao PDR.

Please spread the word to your friends. And let’s act for a greener Mekong!

#GreenMekongDay #MekongRiverCommission #MRC

 Mekong (Lancang) River Basin
Mekong River Commission

Mekong River Commission

Goût as Gold: French Cuisine’s Global Celebration Goes Provençal in Laos’ Capital Vientiane

Goût de France - Good France 2019 in Vientiane, Laos

France’s Provence in the spotlight as the inspirations from UNESCO-recognized cuisine make their annual return to Vientiane via Goût de France.

“For the past 5 years, Goût de France has been bringing together restaurateurs from all over the world and food lovers to celebrate in March the gourmet French meal, recognized as intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO,”  Ambassador of France in Laos Mrs. Florence Jeanblanc-Risler told restaurateurs and assembled news media personnel

“Goût de France highlights all of these elements united by the word “pleasure”. We are excited to see this festival grow year by year: in total more than 5000 restaurants will participate in the 2019 edition in more than 150 countries. In Laos, Goût de France is also growing: 9 restaurants and establishments will participate in the various events planned in Vientiane during this month of March.

“First of all, on March 15th here at the Residence, several restaurants in Vientiane will join forces to offer an exceptional meal with the flavors of this region.  To the sound of a jazz band, you will be able to enjoy the most typical dishes: zucchini flower stuffed with ratatouille, Bouillabaisse, Tropézienne strawberry lavender etc.

“We are talking about good cuisine but also a certain universal art of “good way of eating” with the choice of quality products and season, the “good way of drinking” with an agreement between dishes and wines, and also about a “lifestyle” and about the French service that combines the cuisine to choose plates, cutlery and glasses and how to serve them.”
“It is finally the meal as a moment of sharing and conviviality, between family and friends.

“For the 2019 edition of Goût de France, two themes were chosen: Provence, and Sustainable Development.

“Provence because this region of the South of France has a strong image evocative of sun, sea and mountains so often painted by the impressionists. It also produces a great variety of sun-ripened fruits and vegetables, very beautiful wines; it is also a welcoming region due to its climate and the warmth of its inhabitants. Everyone knows Marseille, Nice, Cannes, the Cote d’Azur but also the “small Alps” called the Alpilles.

“From March 20 until April 1, the region Provence will be on the tables of several restaurants in Vientiane: l’Adresse, l’ATMO, le Bistro 22, la Cage du Coq, ParadIce and Nadao will offer menus that will celebrate, each in their own way, this region rich in culinary traditions.

Goût de France - Good France 2019 in Vientiane, Laos

Goût de France – Good France 2019 in Vientiane, Laos

“The second theme chosen is the one of sustainable development. We all need producers, consumers, restaurateurs to protect our planet; the 2019 edition of Goût de France is therefore under the sign of a more responsible cuisine.

“As a continuation of the Paris agreement on the fight against climate change and to translate these commitments in the field of food, France is at the forefront of the global mobilization for the environment. Goût de France, the major event on the calendar of French gastronomy, is therefore in 2019, seeking an approach that is more respectful of the resources of the planet.

I wish here to highlight the actions of the chefs among us who put their cooking at the service of the globe.

The participating restaurants at Goût de France gave priority to short circuits and feed on local products. Many institutions have banned the use of plastic in their kitchens.

In addition to these two themes that will be highlighted by restaurants around the world, the French Embassy in Laos also wanted to put Goût de France in Laos under the sign of youth which represents the future.

Several young Laotians will be offered free tickets to the prestigious meal of Goût de France at the Residence of March 15. In addition, we have launched via social networks a presentation contest on French and Laotian gastronomy.

“Winners will be eligible to receive invitations at participating restaurants and the first prize will receive an invitation for two guests on the evening of March 15th.

Before closing this presentation, I would like to thank our chefs here again.

“Gentlemen restaurateurs, you proudly fly in Vientiane the colors of the French gastronomy! Often established a long time in this country, you practice a cuisine that uses French techniques enriched products and Laotian influence.

“French gastronomy is welcoming and open and I am very happy to see two Laotian chefs participating in the event this year!”

Participating restaurateurs: l’Adresse, l’ATMO, Bistro 22, la Cage du Coq, ParadIce, Trio Coffee, Chef Panh, M by K Cafe and Nadao.

Event sponsors include Pernod Ricard’s Mumm champagne, also known for its “Ricard” pastis and the Landmark Mekong River Hotel for tables, chairs & tableware.

Vientiane Hosts Vietnam’s Leader in Laos Ahead of US-DPRK Trump-Kim 2nd Nuclear Summit in Hanoi

Vietnam & Laos leaders meet in Vientiane ahead of US-DPRK Trump-Kim Nuclear Summit in Hanoi

The second US-DPRK summit on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula to be held between US president Donald Trump and North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong Un may be just days away in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi, yet the neighboring country’s top leader has taken the time to visit close neighbor Laos and its capital Vientiane.

Laos’ President and Party Secretary-General Bounnhang Vorachit played host to his Vietnamese counterpart Vietnam President Nguyen Phu Trong from Feb 24-25 ahead of what promises to be another momentous occasion for diplomacy, this time on the other side of the Annamite range.

According to many angles and the official statements, visit itself reflected the latest reaffirmation of the tight links between the two nations, administrations and ruling parties and chances to ink more bilateral deals. The visit also comes following the death in office of Vietnam’s Tran Dai Quang from a viral illness in September 2018.

As was expected, the pair witnessed the signing of nine agreements with the aim of fostering more effective cooperation in economics, culture, education, public health, science and technology, defense and security and to prevent illegal border trade.

Key themes included financial cooperation, construction of the Vientiane-Vung Ang railway, and electricity and mines development, according to a joint statement.

Amid the efforts to strengthen the two nations’ famed “special solidarity,” there is no doubt that discussed behind closed doors was this week’s momentous second so-called Trump-Kim summit and its ramifications for both countries, the region and the world.

The Second Summit sees ASEAN member Vietnam playing a pivotal role in the hosting of the summit following the initial meeting in Singapore.

Following on from the previous meet in Singapore, the strategic choice of Hanoi provides an example of Vietnams increasingly deep economic links to the US while maintaining its Marxist-Leninist single-party political institutions.

Playing host just a few days in advance in Vientiane, Lao leaders and senior officials could have expected to be briefed on the preparations for the summit which have also serve as the latest step in rapprochement between Hanoi and Washington, whose bilateral relationship has been on a long and steady improve despite the weight of war history.

With diplomats professionally tight-lipped and precious little being made public about the insights shared by Lao and Vietnamese sides on the topic, one is left to speculate on what was discussed about the prospects for Trump and Kim’s second big meeting.

The move comes after US State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told a news briefing that US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun said US-Vietnamese history “reflects the possibility for peace and prosperity.”

“We moved past conflict and division towards the thriving partnership we enjoy today,” Mr Palladino said.

Naturally, a similar thing could be same about US-Laos relations.

So with Vietnam being held out by the US as exemplar-in-chief of the potential benefits for a single-party state like the DPRK to embrace the market and a locally-acceptable form of state-led capitalism, the time appears ripe for Laos neighbor to capture some long sought for concessions as the recently awarded granting of permission to Vietnam Airlines to access the US.

How could Vietnam (and the US) help Laos to benefit too? Or do we wait patiently for the announcement of a Trump-Kim Summit Mk III, with Air Force One and the DPRK’s most famous train passenger finding a timely connection to VTE, LPB, ZVK, PKZ or perhaps in the tubing in VV?

Snakes on A Pier! Smuggled Serpents Intercepted En Route from Thailand to Laos in Their Thousands

Snakes Seized in Mukdahan, Thailand (The Nation)

Bound for a liquor-infused finale of serpentine-inspired, aphrodisian fantasies (fallacies?), the disruption of a criminal smuggling racket in Thailand’s Mukdahan Province has led to a lucky escape for more than 2,700 snakes all set to be smuggled cross-border bound for Laos and apparently some horny drinkers and all-too-hopeful Cassanovas beyond.  

The sizeable seizure of snakes worth about a million baht (US32,000 or 275 million Lao Kip) reportedly netted some 182 baskets containing 2,730 rat snakes and cobras headed to Laos from Thailand via a long tail boat.

The smuggling operation was intercepted as the illicit slithering cargo was about to be shipped across the river from Thailand into Laos.

Thailand’s The Nation reported that checkpoint head Sathit Pisaisawat led the snake seizure effort that included his own officers plus those of Surasakmontree Military Camp’s task force and the Navy’s Mukdahan’s Mekong Patrol Operation Command at 8.30pm on Sunday evening.

The seizure on Thailand’s side of the shared border occurred at Ban Bang Sai Noi pier in Mukdahan’s Wan Yai district.

The successful disruption reportedly followed a tip-off regarding the planned smuggling operation.

It was reported that from surveillance, some 3-4 persons were seen to be moving what appeared to be plastic baskets with closed lids from a pick-up truck onto the pier for transport by long-tail boat. The persons scattered upon the approach of authorities.

Some 15 live snakes were found inside a net sack in each basket.

These were seized as evidence as the search for those involved continues. Should they be caught, suspects should expect to be charged with having wildlife in their possession without permission and importing wildlife without permission under Thailand’s Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act 1992, it was reported.

In Laos, the snakes could be expected to be on-sold to Chinese intermediaries in order to make alcoholic beverages produced by infusing whole snakes in grain liquor.

The product is believed to be sold to those who believe it may cure what ails them (or their beloved).

Wildlife Crime

Wildlife Crime is not a Victimless Venture

Frivolity aside, cross-border wildlife smuggling is a serious crime in the region, as Laotian Times reported in February 2018.

Those with information of such incidences are encouraged to report any suspicious activities to authorities.

Organizations like IUCN, WWF and WCS and more are also engaged on the issues and welcome reports of suspected crimes.

Those on Facebook can engage with the issue via the Campaign to Abolish the Illegal Wildlife Trade in Laos.

Everytime you buy... Nature pays
Every time you buy... Nature pays

Every time you buy… Nature pays!

Never Give Up! Rising Star Alita Gets Set to Shine At Cool & Kawaii Japan 2019

Alita Alounsavath at Cool & Kawaii Japan 2019 in Vientiane, Laos

Laos’ singer and rising star Alita Alounsavath is set to perform in the capital Vientiane for Cool & Kawaii Japan 2018 on Saturday evening (Feb 16).

E-Commerce Benefits Require Access, Digital Connectivity At Right Cost in Laos

Taking Advantage of E-Commerce: Legal, Regulatory, and Trade Facilitation Priorities for Lao PDR

Barriers such as costs and strength of connectivity, infrastructure, facilitation must be overcome so ongoing development of e-Commerce in Laos can assist more women, small firms, people with physical disabilities, and those in isolated communities to benefit from trade, according to research from World Bank.

Technology, e-Commerce, and connectivity mean the potential for exporting goods and services from Laos has never been greater, yet obstacles remain to fully comprehend and grab some of the many opportunities on offer, according to research released by the multilateral financier, the World Bank.

The rapid growth of e-commerce globally, including in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), helps lower the costs of trade for exporters from Laos and reduces prices for consumers, the research paper entitled Taking Advantage of E-Commerce: Legal, Regulatory and Trade Facilitation Priorities for Lao PDR (English) has found.

It comes hot on the heels of the critical assessment on offer in the report Digital Connectivity in Lao PDR: Lagging Behind Peers featured by the Laotian Times: “Laos’ Online Connectivity Lagging Behind Peers As World Bank Research Reveals Extent, also in February 2019.

E-Commerce connectivity recommendations from World Bank via Taking Advantage of E-Commerce: Legal, Regulatory, and Trade Facilitation Priorities for Lao PDR.

E-Commerce connectivity recommendations from World Bank via Taking Advantage of E-Commerce: Legal, Regulatory, and Trade Facilitation Priorities for Lao PDR.

What is e-Commerce?

“E-commerce refers to the buying and selling of goods and services digitally”, according to the definition used in the research,

“Although limited available information suggests that Lao PDR has a minimal presence of e-commerce, it has the potential to present many opportunities:”

  • E-commerce can help lower the costs of trade for Lao PDR exporters and lower prices for consumers.
  • It can also reduce barriers to people who face disadvantages participating in traditional trade (ie. women, people with disabilities, and isolated communities).

    E-Commerce connectivity recommendations from World Bank via Taking Advantage of E-Commerce: Legal, Regulatory, and Trade Facilitation Priorities for Lao PDR.

    E-Commerce connectivity recommendations from World Bank via Taking Advantage of E-Commerce: Legal, Regulatory, and Trade Facilitation Priorities for Lao PDR.

Constraints to the e-commerce environment currently hold Lao PDR back from greater participation.

  • Limited internet connectivity, high costs of payments, incomplete regulatory infrastructure, and high trade facilitation and logistics costs are limiting factors.

The legal and regulatory framework needs strengthening in some areas to support greater participation in e-commerce.

  • Strengthening the protection of consumers participating in e-commerce and developing/implementing legislation for the protection of personal data will be key.
  • Taxation of e-commerce is also a priority policy area.  Any reform should be informed by a careful assessment of costs and benefits to avoid restricting the early growth of e-commerce.

Trade facilitation also needs further reform to avoid posing undue costs on small firms or entrepreneurs trying to enter into e-commerce.

  • The earliest area of growth in international e-commerce would likely be cross-border trade.
  • Small firms and entrepreneurs are least equipped to manage costs related to shipment delays, lack of transparency, and unpredictable regulations.
  • Clarification on regulations for low-value goods imports and a formal framework to streamline the process are necessary.
E-Commerce connectivity recommendations from World Bank via Taking Advantage of E-Commerce: Legal, Regulatory, and Trade Facilitation Priorities for Lao PDR.

E-Commerce connectivity recommendations from World Bank via Taking Advantage of E-Commerce: Legal, Regulatory, and Trade Facilitation Priorities for Lao PDR.

The reports key recommendations:

  1. Implement relevant ASEAN approaches to regulatory issues related to e-commerce, with a special focus on consumer protection, privacy, and electronic signatures.
  2. Take a cautious approach to imposing new taxes on e-commerce.
  3. Establish a transparent and consistently applied procedure for handling low-value cross-border trade.
  4. Move away from submission or paper documents for trade clearance and toward electronic submission of documents.
  5. Increase effort to apply risk management principles in processing cross-border shipments.
  6. Confirm the leadership role of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce in the coordination of the e-commerce agenda.
Taking Advantage of E-Commerce: Legal, Regulatory, and Trade Facilitation Priorities for Lao PDR

Taking Advantage of E-Commerce: Legal, Regulatory, and Trade Facilitation Priorities for Lao PDR