Laos admits that 26% of its population still live in the poorest conditions due to the ineffective implementation of various development projects aimed at eradicating poverty in the country.
Lao Prime Minister Bousone Bouphavanh recently confirmed that during the just-ended 2008-2009 fiscal year, his government spent over 296 billion kips, or almost $35 million, to implement various poverty eradication projects including, among other things, agricultural, educational, health and infrastructure projects. As a result, irrigation systems were built to provide water to up to 230,000 hectares of rice fields during the raining season, and 117,000 hectares in the dry season, enabling farmers to produce some 2.8 million tons of rice, which averages out to 500 kg per capita per year.
Educational projects included constructions of new primary schools, enabling more than 91% of Lao children of school age to attend grade schools in some 94% of the total number of villages in Laos, while 68% of them are able to further their education in secondary schools.
Health wise, poverty reduction efforts in the past fiscal year provided 76% of Lao people with clean water, helped build 813 clinics in rural areas, and made medicines available to 98% of all Lao villages.
In addition, roads were built to improve all-year-around communications and transportation between rural and urban areas in 136 districts out of the total 141 districts in the whole country.
Despite all these progresses, 26% of all Lao people still live in dire poverty, living with a per capita income of less than $2 per day, according to the Ministry of Planning and Investment. A 2002 survey indicated 33.5% of Lao people lived in this condition. This means that over the course of seven years, Laos was able to reduce the poverty for only 7.5% of its population. And officials attribute that to ineffective implementation of the various development projects aimed at lifting Lao people out of poverty.
Songrit Pongern reported from Bangkok on November 11, 2009. Listen to Songrit's report for more details in Lao. (English translation by Buasawan Simmala and Dara Baccam.)