NA questions reporting, fiscal discipline

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Vientiane Times, 20 June 2014

The National Assembly (NA) has called on the government to provide accurate reporting on national socio-economic development and strictly respect the agreements made between the legislature and government administrative bodies.

The NA’s Economic, Planning and Finance Committee Chairperson Dr Souvanpheng Bouphanouvong made the call on Tuesday when commenting on the government’s report on the implementation of the annual national socio-economic development plan for 2013-14.

“We, the NA, are concerned about the government’s report for 2013-14. We want the government to make accurate assessments on its success and on the real basis as to whether the planned GDP growth target of 7.8 percent will be achieved,” Dr Souvanpheng said at the NA inter-session ahead of the upcoming 7th NA ordinary session.

Dr Souvanpheng, who is also a member of the NA Standing Committee, said she had doubts that the planned target would be achieved in the midst of the country’s current financial difficulties.

She noted that revenue collection had missed the planned target since last year while regular expenditure and expenditure on investment were also reduced and would be again this year.

“We will reduce expenditure by more than 1 trillion kip this year so how we will reach the growth target of 7.8 or 8 percent?” Dr Souvanpheng asked.

She reminded meeting participants on the results of many years of ineffective investment management and said deficiencies in the use of existing measures had led to the current increase in public debts.

Dr Souvanpheng recalled that during the NA’s ordinary session in late 2012 it was agreed that the government would not undertake any projects without the approval of the NA.

At the same meeting, the government was also asked to reprioritise projects approved for the 2013-14 fiscal year and limit expenditure to no more than 4 trillion kip.

To the contrary, she noted, the government had continued creating new debts to project developers for projects it had yet to approve. She asked whether the government would apply to the NA to approve the projects or not.

Dr Souvanpheng demanded the government reveal the exact number of projects unapproved by NA that it has on its books so that all parties can work together to find a solution.

Based on the lessons learnt, she suggested new regulations must be developed so the NA can work in conjunction with the Ministry of Planning and Investment when it came to project approval in accordance with the socio-economic development plan.

She pointed out the loophole in the related existing law, saying that the law stipulates general content only and does not give a defined role for the NA in the approval process.

As an example, she cited the NA’s approval of investment expenditure of 3.3 trillion kip as proposed by the government, only for many more projects to appear at a later date.

Finally, the NA had to approve the projects despite its reluctance to go against its own earlier decisions, she added.

Dr Souvanpheng also raised the query of a minister who suggested the NA should approve only the projects which the government has money to fund, questioning how the legislature could determine whether there was money held in guarantee for the projects or not.

“The NA and related government bodies have to jointly develop concrete regulations and detailed instructions for enforcement,” she said.

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