During the visit of the Finnish delegation, led by the Deputy Minister of Cooperation and Development Marjatta Rasi, to Laos on February 7-9, the government of the two countries had agreed to expand further bilateral cooperation, particularly in forest sector and development in the Mekong River Basin.
Forestry Development Fund
The Finnish government has provided a grant, approximately US$ 6.1 million to the cooperative forestry development project between the governments of Finland and Laos. Meanwhile, Laos can get the remaining of US$ 16.5 million of a project which is a low-interest loan from World Bank.
According to Vientiane Times, the main objective of the fund is to manage forests nationwide with participation from local people, who can work towards the sustainable development of their communities and contribute to the poverty alleviation process.
It also aims to review and improve policies and regulations that facilitate the management of productive forest for sustainability.
The cooperative project started in 2003 and is being implemented until 2008, will cover the four southern provinces of Khammuan, Savannakhet, Saravan and Champasak.
In addition, the Finnish government has proposed funding of more than US$ 2.9 million to the consultant company of the project until 2008.
Support in Mekong Development Program
Finland contributed a fund more than US$ 8.6 million to the Mekong River Commission (MRC) in order to support development planning of the Mekong Basin through the commission’s new information and knowledge management program.
“The Finnish government was very happy to be playing such a leading role in the sustainable development of the Mekong River Basin” said Marjatta Rasi at the signing ceremony on February 8.
The four-year agreement was signed by Mr Lars Backstrom, the Ambassador of Finland to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, and Dr Olivier Cogels, the Chief Executive Officer of the MRC Secretariat.
The program will facilitate access to and the use of data and information necessary to promote and coordinate sustainable resource development in the Mekong Basin.
“We understand that there is a need for the basin’s water resources to be better used if we are to see a reduction in poverty and an improvement in the social and economic standards of people living in the basin region” she continued.
So far the support from Finland has already completed studies of the Mekong River Basin and the Tonle Sap-Great Lake system.
“The government of Finland hopes that contribution will bring about some lasting and positive results” she ended.