Vientiane Times, 19 March, 2013
The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, is backing the Lao government’s policy to build sustainable hydropower plants because it wants to help the country rise above poverty, a senior IFC official has said.
“I really see hydropower as an opportunity to help Laos invest in its people and use its natural resources to help its people escape from poverty,” IFC’s sustainable business advisory manager for East Asia and the Pacific, Mr Ian Crosby, said in an interview with Vientiane Times last week.
“So really our angle is stimulating development and using that to really help the country develop and achieve and move out of Least Developed Country status.”
According to the IFC, as one of the least developed countries in Southeast Asia, 28 percent of people in Laos are classified by the government as poor. This means they have a daily income of about US$1.50.
However, Laos is rich in natural resources, such as land, forests and rivers. That’s why the government has identified the development of hydropower as key to promoting economic growth and alleviating poverty, the IFC says.
Mr Crosby said he agreed that Laos had huge hydropower potential and could develop this resource for export and supply to the domestic market. This would generate large amounts of revenue to sustain economic growth and alleviate poverty. He said one of the main challenges for Laos in building hydropower plants was its lack of capacity in various areas.
“I think what we’ve identified, and what a number of the large financial institutions have identified, is that there is still a need to build capacity. That can be within the government, helping them to understand and assess projects,” Mr Crosby said.
“It’s also within the project developers, people that are coming into the market, making sure they understand what the requirements are, and looking also at the financial institutions. If a lender wants to lend to a project then it’s important that they also apply the same criteria.”
He said the IFC would help Laos to develop a platform and standards for sustainable hydropower plants.
“So I think a lot of the work we want to do is really getting a common understanding, a common platform, of standards and then make sure that everyone is working according to those standards. So that means the government, the developers, and the financers all have to come together around a common platform,” Mr Crosby said.