Laos: UN expert says Govt's economic policies worsened the lives of the nation's poor; recommends less emphasis on large-scale projects

Author: Radio Free Asia, Published on: 7 April 2019

"UN Expert Says Lao Government Policies Make Life Worse For Poor, Marginalized", 28 March 2019

The Lao government's economic policies have worsened the living conditions of the nation's poor and marginalized populations, while widening the gap between the haves and have-nots, a United Nations rights expert said....

...Philip Alston, the U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said that improvements in the lives of the poorest Laotians had not kept pace with the country's economic development.

"Despite important progress in reducing poverty, the [Lao] government's economic growth strategies have too often destroyed livelihoods, entrenched vulnerability, and actually made some people poorer by taking away their access to land, livelihoods, and resources," Alston said.

...Alston recommended that the government place more priority on actual results rather than holding dialogue on poverty reduction. Less emphasis should be placed on large-scale infrastructure projects for their own sake, he said, suggesting they be complemented with policies to promote sustainable farming and investment in the manufacturing, service and tech sectors.

He also recommended, to that end, an overhaul to the tax policy that would address income inequality, with increased transparency regarding tax exemption or reduction for entities involved in land concessions and special economic zones.

...The U.N. expert also urged the government of Laos to change its attitude toward human rights.

...Foreign Ministry official Phetvanxay Khousakoun Thursday as saying that the U.N. expert's findings did not reflect the actual situation in the country.

"Some of that information that you received might be biased," he told the AP, adding that "NGOs might have hidden agendas."

"This might provide you some misperceptions about Laos ... These are rather small groups of people that do not reflect the entire country," said the foreign ministry official, who also implied that Alston's comments went beyond his mandate....

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