The first Laos-Bhutan exchange programme between representatives from trade ministries was held in Vientiane, Lao PDR. Approximately 40 people attended the programme, including EIF National Implementation Unit (NIU) staff and representatives from implementation agencies, led by the Director General of the Department of Planning and Cooperation, Lao PDR, Sirisamphanh Vorachith, and Sonam Tenzin, Executive Director of the Trade Department, Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) of the Royal Government of Bhutan.
In the exchange program, participants shared experiences in their trade and private sector development programmes and their Aid for Trade governance structures, as well as their EIF Tier 2 projects that included project proposal development, implementation and lessons learned.
The meeting took place at a critical juncture in the two countries’ social and economic development. While Lao PDR is focussing its efforts in achieving its 2020 vision of graduating from LDC status, Bhutan is making impressive progress in an alternative development model based on its Gross National Happiness Philosophy. At the same time, both countries are also facing similar development challenges as both economies are experiencing rapid transformation from agrarian based to resource based, primarily hydropower. In this regard, both sides discussed and exchanged how to better promote economic diversification and generate quality jobs for their fast-growing youth populations in the coming years.
Speaking at the meeting, Sirisamphanh Vorachith said, “As an LDC, Lao PDR has been an active participant in the global 'Integrated Framework' process to support the effective participation of LDCs into the multilateral trading system. Priorities in this area have been articulated in the 2006 Diagnostic Trade Integration Study (DTIS), and in the 2012 DTIS Update. Over the years, we have developed a strong aid for trade system with well-established coordination mechanisms at both policy and program implementation levels, and an experienced and high capacity National Implementation Unit under the Department of Planning and Cooperation of the Ministry.”
Sonam Tenzin noted that the EIF project started in Bhutan in 2009 and that they are currently in the process of formulating the first Tier 2 project. He explained that the project will cover 12 areas identified and endorsed by the National Steering Committee. He said that the first Tier 2 proposal is expected to be submitted to the EIF Board in Geneva in the next two months with a three-year project proposal valued at about US$2-3 million.
Apart from an interactive discussion during the meeting, the Bhutan delegation took this opportunity to visit the departments currently implementing Tier 2 projects for more in-depth discussion concerning implementation.