By Abraham Jonah, Middle East Editor
MON, NOVEMBER 21 2016-On her visit to Lao PDR, World Bank Regional Vice President for East Asia and Pacific Victoria Kwakwa reaffirmed the World Bank’s strong support for programs and policies to promote inclusive growth, invest in human development and protect the environment, as identified in the 8th National Socio Economic Development Plan, also known as the NSEDP.
“Lao PDR has made great strides in development, and extreme poverty has fallen below 24 percent. During my visits to Vientiane and the Khammoune province, I have seen how people’s living conditions have improved, particularly among households with access to electricity. People are now enjoying better water supply and sanitation, and with more roads built, are more connected than ever,” said Kwakwa.
Lao PDR has many opportunities to maintain strong growth and create more jobs while protecting its rich natural resources, Kwakwa said. She commended Lao PDR for its increased focus on green growth, which focuses on maintaining robust income growth and development while protecting the environment.
“The World Bank Group supports the Lao authorities’ strategy to pursue diversified, green growth, with a view to advancing beyond Least Developed Country status and providing lasting and accessible opportunities for better health, nutrition and education services, as well as more jobs for the country’s poor.”
The World Bank Group is committed to providing financing for critical programs and investments in Lao PDR in both private and public sectors. Key investments expected to benefit from World Bank Group support include programs to improve the trade and business environment, improve the access to high quality education and health care, reduce the incidence of malnutrition, and support environmental protection and sustainable national resources management. Through the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank Group’s private sector development arm, investments and advisory assistance aim to enhance access to finance, generate new jobs, and promote sustainability standards in renewable energy projects.
About 44 percent of children in Lao PDR are stunted, one of the highest rates in the world. In the Sekong and Phongsaly provinces, even more than 60 percent of children are stunted.
“The NSEDP correctly puts the development of human resources first, as strong education, skills, and health will allow people to participate in the growing Lao economy, said Kwakwa. “Chronic malnutrition among young children is a major challenge, and the World Bank supports the Government’s Health Governance and Nutrition Development Program to help improve child nutrition by focusing on infant and child feeding practices through a national behavior change campaign.”
During her visit, Kwakwa met with Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, other high-level government officials and representatives from development partners, the private sector and civil society. She also met with local communities and beneficiaries of World Bank-supported projects in the Khammoune province. The meetings focused on the policies and programs that the World Bank Group will continue to support to help the country reduce extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity.