You can see it in the smiles on the faces of villagers in Ban Nam Jing, two hours outside of Vientiane the capital of Lao PDR. People's lives are improving. In this village of 158 households incomes have increased thanks in part to the 'Power to the People' (P2P) project supported by the World Bank. The program targets the poor, especially female heads of household, with subsidies to pay for electrical connections.
The villagers I met say initially only wealthier families could pay to be connected. Poorer families were left behind unable to afford the cost with their incomes from producing rice, cassava and rubber. Now with lights at night they are also producing handicrafts and textiles to boost their incomes. There are other benefits, with refrigeration people say they can keep food longer, before it used to rot and they would have to eat it quickly. In addition, their children can now study at night and they have TV for entertainment and to learn more about the rest of the world.
|Axel talks about his trip to Myanmar in a video below.|
You can feel the energy in Myanmar today—from the streets of Yangon, in the offices of government ministries and in rural villages. Dramatic political and economic changes are sweeping the country.
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Henry Ford pernah berkata, ketika ia bertanya kepada para konsumen apa yang mereka mau, mereka menjawab kuda yang lebih cepat. Andai saja ia mendengar permintaan konsumennya, mungkin saja Ford Motor Company tidak akan pernah ada, atau ada tetapi dengan nama Ford Faster Horse Company. Pada saat itu mobil menjadi apa yang disebut “pencarian terobosan inovasi”, yang berarti secara radikal menggantikan teknologi yang ada (kuda dan kereta kuda), tidak dengan mendengar permintaan sebagian besar konsumen tapi mencoba mencari tahu kebutuhan mereka yang sebenarnya.
Building on the story about rural electrification in Laos, let me talk to you about an innovative concept under the electrification program umbrella that focused on those more disadvantaged and with fewer opportunities. This new concept is the Power to the Poor program (P2P).
The P2P scheme was launched in September 2008, although it was identified a few years earlier, in 2005. At that time, a social impact survey was carried out and among all data analyzed, one indicator was outstanding: the pick-up rate in the villages recently electrified was on average only a 70%. What was happening with the remaining 30% of households that were not being connected? It was not a design problem as those households were just a few meters from the electric post. It was, as with many problems in life, a financial problem: the connection fee charged by the power utility, Electricité du Laos (EdL), was too expensive to be paid upfront by the poorest households.
Higher prices have been making headlines in Thailand. Although wages and farm incomes are up, so are the prices of eggs, milk and fried rice. I am definitely feeling the pinch: the price of my favorite beverage—coconut water—has surged following a beetle infestation.
As prices go up, so does the pressure on the government to reign in the spiraling cost of living. But as we discussed in the recently released Thailand Economic Monitor - April 2011, the current inflation challenge is especially tough to tackle.
The history of the power sector in Lao PDR is relatively new. 15 years ago, Laos counted with just a couple of large hydropower plants, and a meager 16% of the households throughout the country counted with electricity access, mostly concentrated in Vientiane, the capital city, and few provincial towns such as Luang Prabang and Savannakett.
Infrastructures needed an urgent push to help the economy start up and reduce the extreme poverty rates of the population. During the beginning of the 90’s, several donors including the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) began different infrastructure development programs, including roads, water supply and electrification.