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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs   25 February 2013  

Laos tracks progress to narrow Asean devt gap

25-Feb-2013

Lao government officials and development partners met in Vientiane on Friday to report on the progress made in narrowing the development gap between Laos and other Asean nations.

The meeting was part of ongoing efforts to facilitate Laos' integration with other Asean member countries in readiness for the Asean Economic Community, which will come into effect in 2015.

Representatives of the government, Asean Secretariat and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) met at the third annual meeting of the Joint Coordinating Committee to review the progress made in carrying out the Laos Pilot Programme for narrowing the development gap towards Asean integration.

Initiated in 2010 in a collaboration between the government, Jica and the Asean Secretariat, the pilot programme's activities cover three components - agriculture, the environment and tourism. The programme is being carried out with the vision of a "Clean, Green and Beautiful Laos" as its guiding principle.

Since its inception, the pilot programme has made significant progress. In the field of agriculture, plant nurseries were established and the renovation of farm facilities at the Clean Agriculture Development Centre in Vientiane has started.

This construction and renovation will develop good agricultural practice at the demonstration farm and will also enhance the operation and management of the Centre, according to a press release from the meeting.

Regarding tourism, public-private partnership marketing promotion has progressed and continues to develop. At the 32nd Asean Tourism Forum held last month in Vientiane, the role of the Laos Pilot Programme was explained, with a focus on its contribution to tourism development and the Visit Laos Year 2012 campaign.

Programme manager Phonevanh Outhavong told the Vientiane Times that the initiative's support for the tourism sector included help with producing brochures and other advertising materials, as well as technical training on tourism related activities.

As for the environment, the programme will upgrade Vientiane's Km 32 landfill. This improvement plan was prepared by an expert team working for the project. Construction of the landfill began in November 2012 and is expected to be completed this week.

Phonevanh said the programme has assisted in building the capacity of Lao staff in managing activities within the three components.

With the strong support of Jica and the Asean Secretariat, Laos has implemented several schemes under the Initiatives for Asean Integration Work Plan, which have yielded significant benefits. The six initial members of Asean have also shared their expertise and experiences with Laos, Phonevanh said.

She told the meeting that the programme to narrow the development gap between the new and old Asean members is an important policy and mechanism of Asean for its further progress.

Friday's meeting also approved the programme's work plan for 2013. Participants then exchanged views to further enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the programme.

The outgoing chief representative of the Jica Laos Office, Dr Masato Togawa, and his successor Koichi Takei also attended the meeting.
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