Communication, Transport, Post and Construction: Spearhead of the National Economy
The Communications, Transport, Post and Construction (CTPC) sector is one of the priority areas on which the Government is focusing in order to turn the Lao PDR from a land-locked to a land-linked country. This aim connects well with the shift the country is undergoing towards industry and modernisation and the reduction of poverty for people of all ethnic groups. Each year the Government invests 30-50 percent of the annual state budget in maintaining and developing CTPC infrastructure. Moreover, it established a road maintenance fund in 2001 in order to facilitate the construction and maintenance of roads.
Thanks to these endeavours CTPC has developed more quickly in recent years than ever before in the history of Lao PDR. To date, road access (year-around and two-layer paved roads) has been made available in all the chief districts of the provinces and 125 other districts, leaving only 17 districts with unpaved roads. At the present time, the length of roads in the Lao PDR is 31,209km, a four-fold increase when compared with 1975. This figure includes 4,497km of asphalt roads (a five-fold increase, compared with 1975), 10,097km of gravel roads and 16,600km of dirt roads. Over 1,000 bridges have been built in the last 30 years, including nearly 500 permanent bridges (two Mekong River bridges have been completed and another one is under construction). Since 1975 roads have increased at an average rate of over 800km a year. This is big achievement of the Party, Government and people of Lao PDR.
Water transportation has also been improved. River ports and embankments at many points along the Mekong River have been constructed and navigation on northern sections of the river has been improved to facilitate water transportation in the four northern Mekong countries: Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and China.
Overland goods and passenger transportation in the country and border areas has also increased consistently. The amount of goods transported by land in 2004 reached 2,351,000 tons, an 84.4 percent increase compared with 1976. The number of passengers transported by land was 31 million, a 1,411.8 percent increase compared with 1976. The total amount of goods transported by water has also increased, but has been limited by the need to improve the navigability of the northern Mekong.
The country’s air transportation system has also stepped forward. In 2000 there were over 440,000 air passengers, while in 2004 there were over 384,000. In 1976 only 16,000 passengers travelled by air, so the increase is particularly impressive. In order to both facilitate the increased air traffic and cope with increased passenger numbers, Wattay International Airport was improved to meet international norms and is now able to provide landing facilities for Boeing 747 and other large airliners. The Government has also improved the management system of the flights passing through the Lao PDR. This helped to generate USD 23 million in 2004, a 27.8 percent increase compared with 1978.
Post and telecommunications have also developed faster since 1990, due to the use of progressive and modern technologies. Thanks to this, service has become better and prices are more affordable. In 2004 there were 23 automatic telephone centres and the number of mobile telephone centres increased from one in 2001 to four in 2005. There are over 400,000 fixed line and mobile subscribers, an average of 6.5 users per 100 people. This is more than double the 2005 target of three numbers per 100 people. Today telecommunications networks cover over 80 districts throughout the country; there are 104 post offices, 130 distribution points, over 23,000 PO Boxes, 117 branches selling stamps and 11 postal saving services. The postal service has been improved and, consequently, the volume of mail has increased.
Urban planning and water supply have strongly developed since 1995. Investments in the sector have been injected into urban infrastructure development, water supply and public facilities that have been constructed and improved widely in cities and rural areas. Particular focus has been placed on organisation buildings, schools, hospitals, markets, trade centres, factories, restaurants, hotels and houses, all of which have seen a surge in construction. Vientiane Capital and second-level cities have been improved under the Asian Development Project, which aimed to help them create a new face. 96 urban planning projects have been completed in Vientiane Capital, provincial chief districts, districts and developing villages.
The country’s water supply has also been improved. There are now some 38 water supply plants in provincial chief districts and districts, an 18.75 percent increase compared with 2000. Nearly 40 percent of the total population now have access to the water supply systems.