By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
Vientiane, December 1, 2017
The government has defined 14 criteria that a large village needs to fulfill in order to upgrade to small town status and further drive community development.
Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith this month signed a new decree that details the criteria.
To be certified as a small town, a village in a mountainous rural area must have at least 1,000 inhabitants.
But a village in rural flatland area must have at least 3,000 inhabitants, according to the decree on poverty graduation and development standards.
Merging small and scattered villages into a larger unit (Koum Ban) towards creating or upgrading large villages into small towns is part of the government’s poverty reduction strategy.
This initiative eases the government’s effort to develop infrastructure and introduce public services into rural communities to drive development and improve local livelihoods.
To become a small town, a village needs to develop itself so that it can become a production and processing base.
It must have an agricultural service unit or centre to provide crop cultivation and animal husbandry knowhow so that farmers can boost productivity, along with a permanent market for local trade.
There must also be a post office or telecommunications office, a bank service unit, or a microfinance unit of some kind.
Other essential facilities include a dispensary or small hospital, community water supply, electricity, and primary and secondary schools, while the environment must be protected and managed in a sustainable manner.
In his recent Prime Ministerial Order that announced targets for the so-called Three Builds Devolution Directive, Mr Thongloun told authorities in charge to continue merging small and scattered villages into larger ones and upgrading large villages into small towns based on their locally appropriate potential.
The prime minister asked each district to create one or two small towns so that there are at least 213 new small towns nationwide by 2020.
The Order also announced the targets for building 5 to 10 provinces as fully strategic units with each province developing 2 to 5 districts as comprehensively strengthened units by 2020.
Since 2011, the government has implemented the Resolution passed by the 9th Party Congress. This includes the Three Builds Devolution Directive which aims to build provinces as strategic units, districts as comprehensively strengthened units, and villages as development units.
The prime minister has told Vientiane and the provinces to draw up five-year, 10-year and 15-year plans to build the capital and provinces into strategic units and define clear work responsibilities and benefits for districts that enable districts to build themselves as comprehensively strengthened units.
Districts were asked to ensure that two thirds of all villages in each district were upgraded and certified as developed villages by 2020.