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NA calls for gov’t to address economic issues

National Assembly members yesterday centred their debate on ways to address economic issues, expressing concern about the nation’s mounting debts, revenue shortfall, falling foreign currency reserves, and the economic slowdown.
While debating a report on socio-economic development and the state budget plan at the NA session yesterday, members called for the government to do more to address issues that would fill people’s stomachs and alleviate poverty.
The debate took place as the country faces economic difficulties. The economy is vulnerable to external impacts and stronger political will is required to deal with these challenges.

Assembly members emphasised the need to boost domestic production to minimise imports, urging the government to promote small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and create more job opportunities for local people.
Member for Vientiane, Ms Buakham Thipphavong, told the session that the economy relied too much on the excavation of natural resources. And agriculture, which is considered as the economic foundation of Laos, has not grown as anticipated.
“I’m also very concerned about rising debt and the budget deficit,” she said, adding that the government needed to take into account the root cause of revenue shortfall and financial leaks.
“Those violating financial principles and laws must be penalised without any compromise because we cannot build our future on dishonest people.”
She said economic issues not only affected the livelihoods of local people but also resulted in widespread social ills.
Member for Xieng Khuang province, Mr Vilaysouk Phimmasone, said that last year the Assembly approved the government’s borrowing of US$300 million from a Chinese bank to bolster SMEs, but many businesses found it difficult to access this money. In addition, many SMEs are still charged high interest rates on loans. 
Member for Vientiane, Mr Bounthong Phommachanh, said the amount of money spent on the government’s administrative affairs remained high, representing about 60 percent of the total budget, which meant less money was spent on development.  
“I agree with the government’s intention to reduce the number of state officials, but the government needs to focus more on commercial agricultural production, the promotion of state enterprises and other economic activities that will create jobs,” he said.
At present, he said, farmers were abandoning their land due to the high cost of production, lack of knowledge about how to grow good quality crops, and a shortage of markets.
He stressed that the government needed to assist farmers with both technical know-how and marketing, to boost agriculture. 
Member for Luang Prabang province, Dr Sinnava Souphanouvong, suggested that government officials should use electric cars as part of efforts to reduce spending.
“Based on my calculations, the government could save about 30 million kip a day if officials used electric cars instead of petrol-consuming vehicles,” he said.
Also addressing the meeting, NA member for Champassak province, Mr Souksavan Vilayvong, called for the government to increase national revenue by strongly enforcing the eight stipulated measures. This would address the budget deficit and boost exports as well as bring more foreign currency into the country.

By Somsack Pongkhao
(Latest Update June 7, 2019)

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