Sweden helps computerize Laos’ taxation system

Laos’ Tax Department on May 27 received 214 computer sets from the National Tax Board of Sweden to computerize tax administration in the country.
     The hand-over ceremony took place at Laos Tax Department, Ministry of Finance. The exchange was made between Mr. Vanechay Khenvongdala, Director General of the Tax Department, and Mr. Henrik Konkel, Tax Advisor, the National Tax Board of Sweden.
     The gifts comprise 214 used computer sets, 151 new monitors, 80 new keyboards, 119 new mouses, and new cables.
     The computers will be further distributed to the tax offices in the provinces across the country. Here they will be used to enhance the computer literacy of the staff and to make better use of the different information communication technologies programmes that have been developed and implemented during the last few years.
     According to Mr. Henrik Konkel, the Swedish Tax Director from Vasteras region, the purpose of the presentation was, “gifts from colleagues to colleagues, with the hope that this gift will strengthen the bonds between the Tax Department in the Lao PDR and its equivalent in Sweden”.
     The computers were collected from different regional tax offices in Sweden and transported to Laos at a cost of USD 3,000. An amount of USD 24,000 was spent on the purchase of new monitors and accessories to make complete sets of the computers for the tax authorities. All the costs are covered by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).
     The presentation is within SIDA’s framework of the assistance programme to the tax sector in Laos, following an agreement reached between the Lao Ministry of Finance and SIDA, in 2002.
     Under the agreement, SIDA has agreed to support the preparation for the feasibility study of a project aimed at further strengthening fiscal management in the tax sector. The new SIDA-funded project, if mutually agreed, will succeed the Lao/96/005 project phases 1 and 2, funded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Norwegian Organisation for Development Assistance (NORAD). The project operated between September 1996 and June 2002.
     In preparation for the possible new project, SIDA has dispatched a long-term expert from the National Tax Board of Sweden, to Laos, for the feasibility study of the new project. Mr. Henrik Konkel has been here since last October to consult, with the aim to assist the Ministry of Finance and the Tax Department in preparing a project proposal for a possible oncoming project. In the preparatory process, reviews were conducted from January to April relating to tax policies, human resources, and organisation and management issues.
     At the hand-over ceremony, the Swedish expert expressed optimism that after his return home he would try his best to collect used computers from Swedish regional tax offices and have them sent to Laos.
     Tax revenue collection is a policy area being developed to realize the Lao government’s strategy to alleviate poverty. The government aims to pull the country out of the group of least developed countries by 2020. In this strategy, revenue collection is of paramount interest to the government.
     In the first half of this fiscal year, Laos’ tax collection totalled only 953.8 billion kip, accounting for 35.4% of the annual plan.

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