Lao development debates are in the news — perhaps our discussion last week started something!

According to the Straits Times (via AFP), PM Bouasone Bouphavanh boasted to the World Economic Forum on East Asia on Sunday “that his country aims for ‘no less than’ eight per cent annual economic growth to 2015”. Not surprisingly, the International NGO Network takes a different view:

‘Massive investments have been made in extractive industries: mining, hydropower and industrial plantations,’ the INGO Network said in a submission to the government.

‘The main characteristics of such investments are: they are land-intensive, there is little value added in Laos, the labour force is often foreign, and there are high and potentially negative impacts on the environment and socio-economic development.’ NGOs also asked the government to consider ‘a more cautious development’ of commercial agriculture which small, self-sufficient farmers in remote areas will have trouble adjusting to.

The INGO submission, for the government’s five-year national socio-economic development plan (2011), is also the subject of a story on the ABC (Australia) (see Radio Australia for the sound file).

But perhaps one of our own commentators, Setthathirath, has it right when s/he says, with admirable conciseness, “The Lao Government pays little serious attention to the Western agencies”?