The suffiency message is spreading. Here is a report from the Vientiane Times (27 Jan 2009).

The agriculture-based, self-sufficient nature of the country’s economy will protect Laos from any major fallout from the global financial crisis, according to a senior economics lecturer at the National University of Laos. Vice Dean of the university’s Economics and Business Management Faculty, Mr Somchit Souksavanh, said on Friday Lao people would not suffer any negative impacts from the crisis on the same scale as millions of others around the world.

“People all around the world are worried about the crisis but Lao people haven’t experienced any changes to their standard of living,” he told Vientiane Times. “There are no reports of people being unable to earn a living.”

He explained Laos was at an advantage because more than 70 percent of its population live off the land and are self-sufficient. Most farmers grow vegetables and raise poultry and animals for their own consumption and were not worried about the declining demand for agricultural products in the global market.

Mr Somchit said forests were a source of food for many local communities and if Lao people could survive this way of life they would have no problems during the crisis. He said some employees would suffer but they would not be as disadvantaged as people in other countries. If Lao people lose their jobs, he said, they can simply go back to work on their farms.

Mr Somchit said the financial crisis would have a strong negative impact on people who relied on both industrial production and consumer demand. “If the demand for industrially produced goods falls, fewer goods will be produced, resulting in lower profits, which may mean mass lay-offs among the labour force,” he said.

“People who live in industrialised countries live in fear of losing their jobs because they can’t grow vegetables and raise animals as people can in Laos .”

Mr Somchit said although the country’s self-sufficiency would enable people to weather the crisis, it would hinder economic development. He said one of the major problems with an agriculture-based society was the supply of agricultural products as raw materials to factories. “When people grow vegetables only for their own consumption, investors don’t feel confident about investing in factories to process agricultural goods,” he said, adding that the government wanted to expand industrialisation.

He said farmers must be trained to diversify and grow different types of crops to ensure the supply of sufficient agricultural products to processing factories. He also said if the price of one crop fell, farmers could rely on other crops as a source of income.