Rights & Tenure in the News »
Lao: Demand for land fuels economic growth, at the expense of locals' livelihoods
Darren Schuettler has recently penned an article for Reuters highlighting how land concessions and resulting resource conflict are affecting livelihoods in Lao PDR.
Once among the world’s most feeble economies, Lao is now beginning to reap the dividends of the market reforms implemented by its communist government during the mid-1980s. The country has begun to profit from an economic boom that has roots in increasingly high levels of demand for Laotian land. Although still among Asia’s poorest countries, Lao PDR's projected economic growth rate for 2008 is almost 8%, a prodigious pace driven in large part by the influx of agri-business firms that aim to turn Laotian soil into a patchwork of large-scale plantations.
The rapacious demand for land prevailing throughout the world economy has serious implications for ordinary Laotians. The Lao government’s system for granting land concessions is a shambles. For one, agri-business firms can acquire concessions at what the environmental group TERRA has called “inconceivably low fee rates.” What’s more, there is little to deter these firms from abusing the terms of their concessions; many agricultural plantations have merely served as fronts for illegal logging operations. Lastly, the lack of coordination between different levels of the Laotian government on concessions, coupled with the absence of a state-maintained land inventory, have plunged the concessions system into confusion and incoherence.
In an attempt to respond to the flaws in the concessions system, Laotian Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh placed a moratorium on new large-scale land grants for mining and agriculture in May 2007. Local and provincial governments have spurned the moratorium however, and many district and local governments are continuing to extend new concessions. Provincial leaders have found it difficult to resist commercial promises of wealth creation, and have argued that agri-business plantations provide Laotians with jobs and local communities with essential services like schools and health care.
Yet large-scale plantations have had a demonstrably negative effect on Laotian people. Plantations are encroaching on Laotian fields and forests, depriving local communities of their traditional livelihoods. “Two years ago it was easy to find food,” said Tamang, a 56 year old Laotian villager who earns 20,000 kip (approximately 2.23 USD) per day clearing trees on a plantation owned by Japan’s Oji Paper, “now it’s much harder. We are waiting for the government to give us land but we have heard nothing yet.”
Read Schuettler’s article in its entirety here.
Posted By Colby Clabaugh at 9:53am on April 15, 2008
Posted By Bharat on August 08, 2008 at 05:59
This is very shameful for Laos Government to act so negligently. After doing a good amount of research on Laos it is very clear to me that mere exploitation is going on in Laos. The government body should keep a check on concessionaires and need of the people of Laos. Afterall, Its the people that make a country.
This blog may contain links to external websites. These links should not be construed as endorsements by Rights and Resources of the content present. They are provided for informational purposes only.