Poverty reduction delayed: Govt
Although some 7,538 families were lifted above the poverty line in 2016, the figure still fell short of the government's target.
The shortfall could put more pressure on the government to strengthen its efforts and source additional funding to boost rural development and generate more income for local people.
According to the recent government report, the number of poor families declined from 83,856 in 2015 to 76,318 in 2016 which was equal to 6.56 percent of total families in Laos.
Nevertheless, the target approved by the National Assembly was to lower the poverty rate to 6.11 percent.
The government attributed the slower decline in the poverty rate to the country's economic slowdown last year as well as challenges in providing facilities to the poor due to a lack of road access.
Many people still live in remote regions, making it difficult for them to sell produce and goods in markets.
The government acknowledged that Laos has seen large investment in the resource sector but this had not translated into sufficient job creation for local people.
Additionally, many people who were lifted above the poverty line in previous years have regressed into poverty again after suffering from natural disasters such as flooding.
A survey in 2015 found that Bounneua and Bountay districts in Phongsaly province had fallen into the criteria of poor district status. Previously the districts were declared as having left poverty.
Experts say the causes of ongoing poverty in Laos are multifaceted, but chief among them are a lack of access to flat and arable terrain in upland areas, insufficient funding for irrigation projects, and a reluctance to undertake commercial cultivation.
Not knowing this, a fairly common question is “Why are so many Lao people poor when they live in a tropical country that is rich in natural resources compared to some African nations?”
However, the causes of poverty are complicated and there are several factors involved. Many villagers simply don't know how to cultivate crops that produce higher yields. They are also unable to access the funding required to build infrastructure and shift from subsistence farming to commercial cultivation.
The government is committed to channel its budget towards priority areas despite struggling to overcome financial difficulties since last year following the country's revenue shortfall.
It seems that infrastructure development, particularly roads, plays a significant role in poverty reduction and boosting rural development as many areas have been developed quicker after good quality roads are built.
Good roads can encourage people to produce more for market or even operate businesses along the roads to boost their income.
This year, the government aimed to reduce the poverty rate of families down to 6.09 percent and pumped more resources into 91 rural development focused areas.
By Times Reporters
(Latest Update March 10, 2017)