Experts in the field met recently to discuss the future of Lao PDR’s local development in the first Governance Sector Working Group (GSWG) of 2015. The panel discussions took place in the National Conference Center in Vientiane, Lao PDR.
The 7th National Socio-Economic Development Plan (NSEDP), which is Laos’ 5-year development plan, is set to be finalized this year. The plan’s overall objective is for Laos to meet the Least Development Country (LDC) graduation criteria. This is an important step forward for Laos to prosper, which can only be completed with continued local development support to the remote provinces and districts, through the District Development Fund (DDF).
The DDF was set up under the joint UNCDF-UNDP Governance and Public Administration Reform – Strengthening Capacity and Service Delivery of Local Administrations (GPAR-SCSD) project. The aim of this project is to increase the capacity of the local administration, leading to better delivery of services which aims to improve the lives of the poor, especially in rural areas of Lao PDR.
The project started in mid-2012 and will run until December 2015. It provides funds for the building of basic infrastructure, such as schools and health centers at the district level. Moreover, Government officials of 53 districts in 7 Laotian provinces have undergone a series of training and refresher training on planning, budgeting, monitoring, reporting, project management as well as financial management under the DDF mechanism.
In the context of the discussions during the first GSWG of 2015, designing the new phase of this project, the panel focused on three main points.
Firstly, addressing inputs from the sector-working group in preparation of the 8th NSEDP.
Secondly, concentrating on linkages between models such as the DDF and the Party’s Three Builds directive (known as Sam Sang), which both aim to bring developmental support to remote provinces and districts in Lao PDR.
Thirdly, seeking further comments on the workplan for the GSWG in 2015 and ensuring it caters adequately into important processes, such as the high-level roundtable meeting in 2015.
The GSWG is an important forum for actors in the field of local development to come together and share information and views. Attendees included the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, HE Dr. Khammoune Viphongxay; HE Deputy Minister of Justice, Prof. Ket Kiettisack; and UNDP Lao PDR’s Resident Representative, Ms. Kaarina Immonen, along with other government representatives, development partners and civil society.
During his opening remarks, the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, HE Dr. Khammoune Viphongxay said: “This desire to improve the way government does business with citizens, as indicated by our Sam Sang policy, also requires some fundamental changes to the legal, regulatory and institutional environment. As you know, we are currently revising and updating the Lao Constitution, and related legislation including the Law on Government, the Law on Local Administration and new Law on City and Municipality. Provincial Councils and other planned institutional changes are in accordance with the principles of good governance of separation of roles and greater representation of citizens’ interests. The new and clarified mandates are intended to provide a more effective and enabling environment.”
“The DDF provides a budget directed to districts, empowering local authorities to meet the real needs of people” explained Mr Douangchan Boutnakho, Deputy Head of Provincial Home Affairs in the northern province of Oudomxay.
The Vientiane Times noted that, “Merging the [DDF] with the government's implementation of [Sam Sang] directive would be a productive step because the two programmes target the same goal of poverty reduction.”