The Japanese government will provide a grant worth 3.49 billion yen (about US$32 million) to fund three new hydropower, health, and transport projects in Laos.

More than 1.7 billion yen of the total grant will be spent on constructing a mini-hydropower plant in Phongsaly province.

Another 741 million yen will go towards building and equipping health facilities for the treatment of mothers and children in Attapeu, Champassak, Saravan, and Xekong provinces, while 533 million yen will be spent on upgrading air traffic control systems at airports in Vientiane and the provinces of Savannakhet, Champassak, Luang Prabang and Xieng Khuang.

An Exchange of Notes for the grant projects was signed yesterday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Thongloun Sisoulith on behalf of the Lao government and Japanese Ambassador to Laos Ms Junko Yokota on behalf of the government of Japan.

The mini-hydropower plant project will see the installation of a 450kW generator and local electricity network in Gnot-Ou district, Phongsaly province.

The project to improve the health service network in the southern provinces will involve the construction of 45 health centres and 25 houses for staff in Attapeu, Champassak, Saravan and Xekong provinces.

The final recipient of the funding is the ‘Project for the Modernisation of Equipment for Transition to a New Communication, Navigation, and Surveillance System’, which will provide vital upgrades to navigation, surveillance, and air traffic management systems in airports throughout the country.

At the signing ceremony, Ambassador Yokota highlighted the fact that health is one of the sectors prioritised by the Japanese government when it comes to providing assistance to Laos, with a central focus on improving maternal and child health in remote rural areas.

“If rural and remote areas have their dispensaries upgraded, pregnant women will benefit from more hygienic conditions, and infant mortality will be reduced because dispensaries are easy for people in remote areas to access,” she said.

In regards to the transportation project, Ms Yokota said the Japanese government attaches importance to the improvement of the aviation sector in Laos. She said the introduction of upgraded air safety equipment in accordance with International Civil Aviation Organisation standards will enhance effectiveness and efficiency, allowing pilots to fly direct routes guided by modern systems. Regarding electricity, while everyone in urban areas of Laos is connected to a power supply, the number of people in rural areas who have access to electricity is low, especially in Phongsaly province, where only 16 percent of the population had access to power in 2010.

The project will help to develop electrification and deliver a more stable and steady supply of electricity to villages in Gnot-Ou district, greatly improving people’s living conditions.

Dr Tho ngloun thanked the Japanese government for the importance they place on development in Laos, saying the Lao government highly values this assistance.

“The assistance represents a great contribution to the development of the Lao economy and to poverty reduction, ensuring the country’s preparedness for integration into the world community, in particular the Asean Community,” he said.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update March 27, 2013)