Lao govt approves special budget for flood recovery

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The government has approved a special budget of 500 billion kip (US$58 million) to repair public infrastructure that was damaged in last year’s floods, indicating that the remaining recovery work could soon begin. 

The Ministry of Planning and Investment unveiled the approved budget at the annual conference of the finance-planning sector held in Vientiane earlier this week. The meeting served as a platform to inform planning and finance officials about the details of the budget for 2019.

“The budget for flood recovery work is now ready and we hope that repairs to the remaining damaged public infrastructure nationwide will begin soon,” said an official involved in drawing up the 2019 socio-economic development plan.He said the Ministry of Public Works and Transport and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry would be the key agencies to execute this special budget, adding that many roads and irrigation systems were damaged in the floods last year.

Widespread flooding caused serious damage to roads, bridges and other structures in many provinces. According to an assessment presented at a meeting with development partners in November 2018, the cost of the damage was about US$147 million. In addition, the long term effect of the damage on productivity would bring the figure to more than US$500 million,

Many people around the country are complaining about the poor condition of major main roads and urging the government to address the problem immediately.

They also say the government must make sure that public amenities are fully restored and function properly.

“The government should repair Road No. 13 North from Vientiane to Vangvieng as this section of road is in very bad condition and it takes a long time to travel between the two towns,” a Vientiane resident said.

Planning officials were unable to give details of which roads or bridges would be repaired using the flood recovery budget and could not say whether the budget would cover the repair of Road No. 13 North.

However, they said that if the public works and transport ministry could attribute the poor condition of this road to some form of natural disaster, they would not object to the budget being used to repair it.

Guidelines issued by the planning ministry on the use of the special budget state that the money should only be used for the repair and restoration of infrastructure that is already in use.

Infrastructure that is under construction is not eligible for the special budget but project managers can request a project amendment if their operations have been affected by a natural disaster. This rule is intended to ensure that the special budget allocated for flood recovery is put to the best use and spent correctly.