Xaysomboun, a mountainous and isolated province located in the heart of northern Laos has the potential to come out of its shell with infrastructure development if new projects in tourism, hydropower and mining are realised.

Since taking responsibility of their provincial affairs, more local people feel confident they can develop their home province and the business sector has expressed increasing interest in the area.

Provincial Governor Dr Sombath Yialiher gave an exclusive interview to Vientiane Times on Friday in the provincial capital of Anouvong, where he unveiled the strategy for provincial development in the near future.

The governor said Xaysomboun is a new province in Laos where several hydropower and mining projects are located but the income from these projects has not translated into the development of this area proportionately.

He said he will seek the government’s permission to authorise his province to negotiate directly with international investors to source funding for provincial development in exchange for projects.

The governor wants to launch a campaign encouraging people in the province to love their ‘hometown’ and to want to develop it.

“We will create a civilised state of mind in Xaysomboun with people respecting the country’s laws and strengthening their solidarity and contributing their energy and efforts to develop the province,” he said.

Authorities will try to ensure Xaysomboun is connected with other surrounding provinces through paved roads to Xieng Khuang, Borikhamxay and Vientiane provinces within the next two years.

“We will focus on building new roads, water supplies, electricity and other facilities in the provincial town to accommodate investment and improve people’s livelihoods”.

“With facility development, Anouvong will be like a provincial town in other provinces,” he said.

“If everything goes as planned, I think within 10 years the development of our province will catch up with other provinces, except the major provinces.”

Xaysomboun has a population of more than 81,800 people covering an area of 8,500 square kilometres and comprising the five districts of Hom, Longxan, Anouvong, Longchaeng and Thathom.

Dr Sombath said there are both opportunities and challenges in building a new province. When Xaysomboun was under the umbrella of Vientiane province, it was quite far for the provincial leaders to inspect the development of the area.

“As a province, we can encourage line ministries to create their departments under their mandates. Since the establishment of Xaysomboun province, many ministries have come to improve their structures and supply human resources to work in their respective sectors,” he said.

“As a province, we can create confidence for local people to develop their hometown. If we build it as a special zone, people may fear that the zone could be downgraded into a district as it was eight years ago.”

Xaysomboun was designated as a special zone in 1994 and the government downgraded it into a district in 2006, under the authority of Vientiane province.

Now many people want to return to Xaysomboun to develop their province following its new establishment.

Dr Sombath said there are also a number of challenges to building a new provinc e. As a new province, it is like setting up a new home for a married couple, he said.

With many public offices built during the Special Zone in 1990s deteriorating it needs a lot of funding to build new offices.

Another challenge is the lack of skilled personnel. Many offices have only a boss and a deputy but suffer from a lack of technical staff.

Source: Vientiane Times
February 24, 2014