Archive for ‘Socio-economic/Economic’

May 23, 2014

Laos “land grabs” drive subsistence farmers into deeper poverty*

humanitarian news and analysis

a service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Laos “land grabs” drive subsistence farmers into deeper poverty*

By Dana MacLean
Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.irinnews.org/report/100116/laos-land-grabs-drive-subsistence-farmers-into-deeper-poverty

Photo: Wikimedia Commons. Laos is one of the poorest countries in the region


“When these lands [are given] to companies and converted to industrial agriculture or other uses, it destroys the foundation of rural people’s lives, livelihoods and knowledge systems, as well as their access to food, nutrition, medicines and incomes,” Shalmali Guttal, a senior analyst with Focus on the Global South, a Bangkok-based NGO which campaigns for social justice in Laos, told IRIN.

Large-scale land leases in Laos – or “land grabs,” as campaigners call them – are driven by foreign investment projects brokered between the government and private companies, which have increased in frequency in the past decade and encroached on the land occupied by hundreds of communities, according to researchers at the University of Bern’s Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) in Switzerland.

Ethnic minorities, which make up about 70 percent of the population, mostly live in resource-rich upland areas, which are often the target of land purchases by international corporations.

Because of where they live, they are disproportionately affected.

“Since many of Laos’s ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples’ traditional lands are in areas coveted for conversion into development projects, they have been targeted for relocation projects, largely without their free, prior or informed consent,” says Nicole Girard, senior campaigner for Minority Rights Group (MRG).

Corporations usually promise prosperity. For example, mining operations in Laos have claimed to create thousands of jobs and contribute to local development: The proponents of such schemes would probably point to the fact that between 2005 and 2012, Laos’ GDP increased from US$2.7 billion to 9.3 billion.

However, increased poverty and higher mortality rates are often the lot of those displaced following a government-brokered land deal.

“As most [ethnic farmers] have no education, if they are forcibly displaced, they have very few livelihood options,” said Debbie Stothard, executive director of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), a coalition of human rights NGOs.

Researchers and activists point to the impossibility of continuing traditional farming practices, coupled with lack of work skills, as driving resettled communities into poverty. Land deals in Laos, they say, despite decent laws, are carried out with little transparency or accountability.

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Higher mortality
“There are certain indications that there is a new poverty happening in Laos with the landless poor,” said Andreas Heinimann, senior lecturer at CDE, who co-authored a 2012 land report with the Laos Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) .
Most people depend on the land for their livelihoods
UN Development Programme research found that populations from upland villages that are resettled can suffer mortality rates of up to 30 percent when they are forced to abandon their traditional livelihoods and move to other places.“The impacts [of so many rural poor moving to urban areas] have included significant rises in mortality rates, conflict between communities, and a lack of access to education and health facilities, despite promises of such things,” said MRG’s Girard.When the government relocates farmers to consolidated villages near towns and cities, families in some cases have been given as little as 0.75 hectares of land – roughly half what they traditionally use for farming.Most ethnic groups in rural areas practice shifting cultivation, which requires large plots of land to allow some soil to lie fallow to regenerate while other sections are planted – a system that is “completely different” from the settled farming of the lowland areas where they are resettled, according toHeinimann.In June 2012 the government issued a moratorium on new land concessions for rubber and eucalyptus farming, and mining. However, researchers say, murky land deals continue to drive ethnic communities off their land without adequate consultation or compensation.
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Lack of transparency
Official data show 1.1 million hectares of land – 5 percent of the country’s arable land – has been the subject of roughly 2,600 land deals since 2010 (when the government started keeping track) for large-scale development projects, though some activists suspect leased land could be more than three times that amount. In 2012 the International Food Policy Research Institute listed Laos among seven countries in the world in which international land deals account for more than 10 percent of the total agricultural area.
Photo: Martin Abbiati/IRIN.  An ethnic Hmong woman in Ban Houythao, northern Luang Prabang
“Decisions are not made in public because [the government] doesn’t have proper procedures, and companies are operating in a vacuum of rule of law and policy,” said Michael Taylor, the programme manager for Global Land Policy at the International Land Coalition (ILC), a Rome-basedsecretariatforNGOs and UN agencies working on land issues worldwide.All land in Laos officially belongs to the state, leaving citizens with few options in terms of legal redress when land deals are brokered between the government and companies.“The government sometimes just tells people to move. Of course, we don’t want to go, but what can we do?” saidVong (he uses one name), a 25-year-old ethnic Hmong farmer in BanHouythao village in northernLuangPrabang Province.The most recent domestic analysis shows that 72 percent of all land development projects in Laos are run by foreign investors – mostly from China, Vietnam, and Thailand.Investors target resource-rich and fertile land, especially forested areas, which ILC’s Taylor calls “winning twice” – meaning the companies are “harvesting timber and selling it before using the land [for other projects].”“In the rush to attract overseas capital, the Laos government has made concessions [renting out areas for intensive land use projects] extremely favourable for foreign investors,” said Taylor.

While a 2005 government decree requires investors to compensate and resettle villagers whose land is appropriated for projects, loose monitoring means implementation has been piecemeal.

“The legal framework is good, but enforcement is the issue,” said CDE researcher Oliver Schoenweger. “Most of the time, no compensation is provided to individuals.”

For example, a lignite mining project in the northern Hongsa District launched in 2010 to provide electricity to Thailand will expropriate roughly 6,000 hectares of rice paddy fields cultivated by 2,000 farmers there. However, according to the Land Issues Working Group, a consortium of international NGOs based on Vientiane, the Laos capital, no negotiation with communities has taken place.

The government, in the report it co-published with CDE, acknowledged the lack of proper oversight allows such cases to occur.

“Weaknesses in national land planning and the enforcement of investment regulations have generated concerns,” admitted Akhom Tounalom, vice-minister of MoNRE, explaining: “This case and several others reveal the severe disadvantages local populations have in land negotiations, especially where they are poorly educated, illiterate, or simply under-exposed to tenure or business-related standards or practices.”

“There is a lot of scope for abuse,” said Taylor.

* The corrected percentage of the population comprised of ethnic minorities is up to 70 percent

dm/kk/cb

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
May 14, 2014

PanAust says no to ‘opportunistic’ bid from China

 

PanAust says no to ‘opportunistic’ bid from China

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.smh.com.au/business/panaust-says-no-to-opportunistic-bid-from-china-20140513-387×6.html

Resources reporter

View more articles from Peter Ker | Email Peter

May 14, 2014
PanAust's mines in Laos.
Deal or no deal: PanAust’s flagship operation in Laos.

Chinese investment in Australia is continuing apace, with copper and gold producer PanAust the second miner to receive a takeover bid from Chinese shareholders in a week.

PanAust confirmed on Tuesday that its major shareholder with 22.8 per cent, Guangdong Rising Assets Management, had offered to buy all remaining shares in the company for $2.30 a share.

The offer valued PanAust at $1.46 billion, well above the $1.58 a share the stock closed at on Monday.

The offer prompted a 54¢ rise to $2.12 by close of trading, still well below the offer price.

But PanAust directors said they could not support the bid, with managing director Gary Stafford pointing to recent copper acquisitions in Australia as evidence that Guangdong’s offer was not sufficient. In particular, he pointed to Rio Tinto’s sale of the Northparkes mine, which annually produces about 40,000 tonnes of copper, to China Molybdenum for $US820 million.

PanAust expects to produce up to 75,000 tonnes of copper this year and has growth under way to be producing 90,000 tonnes within five years. It also has two big development projects in the wings, with Chile’s Inca D’Oro on the drawing board and a preliminary deal with Glencore Xstrata to buy its Frieda River deposit in Papua New Guinea.

”Companies that have a strategic need are paying a far higher price for copper than is reflected in the equities of copper companies,” Mr Stafford, PanAust’s 13th biggest shareholder with 0.43 per cent, said.

He described the bid as opportunistic but said talks were constructive, with Guangdong welcomed in to perform due diligence.

PanAust’s sixth-biggest shareholder and founding director, Bob Bryan, said while the company deserved a higher offer, the bid was encouraging. ”There is obviously an appetite and appetites are to be encouraged in most situations and this is such a situation,” he said.

”It gives me a lot of confidence … the managing director has such a significant shareholding in the company and that means his interests will be well aligned with the rest of us shareholders.”

The offer is conditional on approval from Chinese and Australian regulators and more than 50.1 per cent of PanAust shareholders accepting the deal.

UBS analyst Jo Battershill said the offer looked ”a bit cheap” based on PanAust’s production settings, and much cheaper when the growth potential of Frieda River and Inca D’Oro was taken into account.

”[Guangdong] have come in with a bid that looks reasonable to people who haven’t followed the story or who just look at the share price chart, but it feels to me they are trying to get ownership of the company before the Frieda River asset comes in and they have to pay for Frieda River,” he said.

The bid comes just two months after Mr Stafford announced his intention to step down as managing director and as the company enters a phase of high waste movement at its flagship operating mine in Laos.

Mr Battershill said the bid was timed to lob at a moment when PanAust was in ”limbo period”, with its growth projects still more than a year away from a final investment decision.

The deal follows last week’s takeover bid for Aquila Resources by Chinese steel maker Baosteel in partnership with Aurizon. Aquila directors are yet to say whether they will recommend or reject the bid.

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April 25, 2014

Laos to borrow $566m this year

Breakingnews >

Laos to borrow $566m this year

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.bangkokpost.com/breakingnews/406615/revenue-shortfall-forces-laos-to-borrow-566m

Vientiane — Laos will need to borrow an estimated 4.5 trillion kip ($566 million) this fiscal year to address its ballooning budget deficit, a state media report said on Friday.

Over the year to Sept 30, Laos plans to spend 29.7 trillion kip but projects only 25.2 trillion in revenues, forcing it to borrow from foreign and domestic sources, the Vientiane Times reported.

During the first six months of fiscal 2013-14 the government collected only 9.2 trillion kip, significantly lower than forecast, the government mouthpiece said.

“The three major reasons for the large fiscal deficit have been overly optimistic revenue projections, large wage increases and allowances awarded without due regard for their impact on the country’s fiscal and external positions, and development projects financed off budget,” the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said in its latest report on Laos.

The Lao government hiked base wages for the civil service by 37% last year and plans further wage hikes this year, despite problems with making payments, the ADB said.

“A number of government officials, in particular those in the countryside, have received only February’s salary so far this year,” the Vientiane Times said.

Last year, Laos’ fiscal deficit was the equivalent of 5.8 per cent of its gross domestic product, the bank said.

April 23, 2014

HAGL adds Laos crops as Singapore listing looms

 

HAGL adds Laos crops as Singapore listing looms 

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.thanhniennews.com/business/hagl-adds-laos-crops-as-singapore-listing-looms-25553.html
Monday, April 21, 2014 09:47

A corn harvester operates on a field of Hoang Anh Gia Lai in Laos. Photo: Ngoc Son
HAGL JSC, a real estate developer that’s transformed itself into Vietnam’s biggest listed farmer by acreage, is expanding overseas plantations and adding corn as it plans to list the agricultural unit in Singapore next year.
The company will harvest corn in Cambodia and Laos this year, adding to its sugar cane, palm oil and rubber plantations, Chief Executive Officer Nguyen Van Su said in an April 16 interview. The company is also pursuing deals to sell its rubber to Michelin CGDE (ML) and Bridgestone Corp (5108), he said.
HAGL is focusing on growth in food commodities to meet rising regional demand, Su said. The company plans to list its agriculture business on the Singapore stock exchange next year to raise capital for further expansion and meet terms of convertible and non-convertible bond sales to Temasek Holdings Pte and Credit Suisse (CS) Group AG, Su said, without giving a target price.
The farming division is valued at more than $1 billion, said Nguyen The Anh, Ho Chi Minh City-based analyst at CIMB Securities Vietnam.
Commodities transformation
A Singapore listing would make HAGL the second Vietnam-based company to trade in the country, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The company’s transformation from a real estate company to the country’s largest owner of agricultural land, with crops in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, in just a few years is a good sign, Anh of CIMB Securities said.

Real estate accounts for 6 percent of the company’s revenue today and is expected to drop to 200 billion dong ($9.5 million) in 2014, down from 247 billion dong last year, according to a company statement released April 18 at the annual shareholder’s meeting.

HAGL, which has said it has 100,000 hectares under cultivation, counted on real estate and rubber for about 74 percent of revenue in 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The Pleiku, Vietnam-based company forecasts a 50 percent jump in 2014 after-tax profit to 1.46 trillion dong, according to a statement from HAGL.
“Listing on the Singapore exchange will make it easier for investors to trade our shares,” said Su, who joined the company in 1993.
Shares gain
HAGL has surged 28 percent in Ho Chi Minh City this year, compared with the benchmark VN Index’s gain of 12 percent.
The company is relying on crops such as corn to generate cash quickly while newly planted rubber trees grow to maturity and become productive.
Revenue from sugar cane, about 34 percent of total sales, is forecast to increase to 1.1 trillion dong this year, up from 838 billion last year, according to an April 18 statement. Rubber trees, which take about six years to reach maturity, are expected to generate 341 billion dong this year, or 10 percent of total revenue. Revenue from the company’s newest crop, corn, is expected to be 300 billion dong in 2014.
The company is also relying on quicker crops as rubber prices have declined to a more than four-year low.
Rubber glut
Rubber futures traded in Tokyo have fallen 25 percent this year and closed at 206.4 yen a kilogram on April 18, the lowest settlement since October 2009. Prices slumped as the global surplus expanded. The glut will be 78 percent more than estimated in December as demand slows and production in Thailand exceeds forecasts, according to The Rubber Economist Ltd., a London-based industry adviser.
The company forecasts 2014 revenue will rise to 3.4 trillion dong, it reported in the shareholders’ meeting document. That compares with 2.8 trillion dong last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“We started to have revenue and profit from agriculture beginning in 2013,” Duc said at the shareholder’s meeting last week. “Over the 2008-2013 period, we just spent money on the sector and didn’t get income.”
When the company began to exit Vietnam’s property market in 2009-2010, its executives were viewed as leaving the party just as it was starting, Su said. Vietnam’s growth slid in 2008 and 2009 along with the global slowdown.
“Sometimes you have to know when to withdraw from a market,” Su said. “We want to expand more in our agriculture business.”

Bloomberg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoang_Anh_Gia_Lai_Group

http://hagl.com.vn/

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General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong visits HAGL Attapeu project (Laos)

14/04/2014 14:06

http://hagl.com.vn/Group_Posts/DetailPost/20140414110036036

Receiving the invitation of the General Secretary and the President of the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos – H.E. Choummaly Sayasone, from 12th to 13th April, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong, his wife and the senior delegation of Vietnam including the Politburo’s member, Chair of the Central Committee of the Vietnamese Fatherland Front Nguyen Thien Nhan, the Party Central Committee’s member, Head of its External Relations Commission Hoang Binh Quan and the Vietnamese Ambassador in Laos visited and gave best wishes on the occasion of the traditional festival of Laos.  For More

General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong (second from the left) gave a present to HAGL Group.

April 20, 2014

Laos exports up 6% last year

Laos exports up 6% last year

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.bangkokpost.com/breakingnews/405513/laos-exports-reach-2-4bn-led-by-minerals

VIENTIANE – Laos’ exports reached US$2.4 billion (78 billion baht) in 2013, up 6% year-on-year with minerals accounting for the lion’s share, media reports said Friday.

“Some 41% of the exports were mining products, becoming the largest foreign exchange earner in the country,” the Vientiane Times reported.

But the state-run newspaper said mineral exports were expected to decline this year after the closure of gold mining operations in Sepon, southern Laos, by Lane Xang Minerals Limited (LXML).

LXML is 10% owned by the Lao government and 90% by MMG – a subsidiary of the state-owned China Minmetals Group.

“MMG ceased gold operations in December 2013 due to depleting ore reserves and lower margins,” the LXML’s website said. “The gold plant has been placed on care and maintenance while the Sepon operation focuses on copper production.”

After minerals, chiefly gold and copper, Laos’ second-largest foreign exchange earner last year was hydro-electricity, which accounted for 21% of the country’s total exports.

Hydro-electricity is expected to be the economy’s main engine of growth in the future, with a series of dams planned that will have a total capacity to generate 28,000 megawatts, compared with the country’s current capacity of 3,000 MW, most of which is exported to neighbouring Thailand.

The garment industry was the third largest foreign exchange earner, contributing 8 per cent, followed by tourism earnings, the Vientiane Times said.

Laos’ total imports in 2013 reached $2.5 billion, leaving the communist country with a $224 trade deficit.

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Writer: dpa
Position: News agency
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