Govt to assess land concession viability

Vientiane Times | 17 March 2014

Govt to assess land concession viability

The government is assessing the effectiveness of land concessions for mining, rubber and eucalyptus plantations after suspending these kinds of concessions in 2012.

The assessment should be complete in 2015 so that the government can decide whether to consider new investment proposals for such projects or continue their suspension.

The government has approved hundreds of thousands of hectares for these concessions, but has yet to identify how many hectares of land investors have already used or whether they have followed their original proposals.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment's Information Centre is collecting information about concession projects in the provinces of Xayaboury, Borikhamxay, Luang Namtha and Attapeu.

The centre's Acting Director General, Dr Bounkeua Vongsalath, told Vientiane Times last week they wanted to finish the assessment in these four provinces in April before looking at other provinces.

The centre will review the information and decide whether the concession projects had any impact on the country's environment and the livelihoods of local people.

“One of our challenges is funding. We want about 15 billion kip to build a database for the concession projects,” Dr Bounkeua said.

In total, 470 mining projects have been approved, with a value of US$5.9 billion. Of these, 204 projects were approved by the central government and the rest by local authorities, according to the Ministry of Planning and Investment in December last year.

A total of 212 rubber and eucalyptus plantations were approved covering an area of 574,534 hectares with investment amounting to about US$1.65 billion.

Thirty-five of the 212 projects were approved by the government and the rest by local authorities. A total of 201 were rubber plantations.

Minister of Planning and Investment Mr Somdy Duangdy told the National Assembly last year that officials in charge will carry out further work to complete their assessment, admitting that one year was insufficient time to complete all the work required.

Following the assessment, the government will review their policy on concessions to ensure that reasonable revenue has been collected from them. The government will consider approving new mine projects after 2015.

The government's goal is to maximise the sector's contribution to socio-economic development and boost incomes in Laos by creating more job opportunities.

Original source: Vientiane Times

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