27 June 2007

How things are done

There are two ways rules can be made in Laos. They have laws that are passed by parliament. I understand that they make a list of laws to be passed by parliament for the year and slowly work their way through the list. It seems that more of the rules are made by Prime Minister's decrees. These are approved by senior bureaucrats. So this means the rules are not made by the parliament, the people who are supposed to represent the public. I think there are few laws compared to decrees. Laws have higher status than decrees. If there was a law for something at home, there might an equivalent decree for it here rather than a law. If you can be punished for not following a decree.

I'm not sure how their common law works. People that arrested and accused of doing something will generally receive a guilty verdict, I hear. What does this mean for their common law?

It is strange that there are some really big things that go on here that everyone finds out from international news, but the government will not comment upon. Therefore people rely on rumours for information, but you never know what the source is and how accurate the information is.

I wonder how the Lao government will operate in the future. Similar to home, an older generation that is not mine, is in power, and has a certain way of doing things. At home we might say it's the baby boomers in power vs the younger generations X and Y. When my generation is in power will it be different in Laos? People my age I have talked don't seem to work in the way that the current senior government do at all. I think they can see ways that things can be improved, so they seem to have a vision for their country's future. I just can't imagine them working like the senior government officials do.

The average government employees are paid a base rate of around $30 US. I'm guessing the senior ones are paid more. I'm unsure of what they can get on top of that- they can be paid by external organisations to attend meetings and training sessions. This may be around $10 per day. So they don't have that much money compared to a local project officer/ manager/ consultant which may be paid $200- 500 per month. It's hard for the government to get foreign aid money compared to international and local NGOs.

So they need control! The government wants to know much of what everyone does, including the organisation I work for. They like us to do the work and give them credit and pay them to attend meetings which is fine. You have to mention things casually to them privately, then let them think about it and eventually they'll agree. They will oppose new ideas if you tell them for the first time in front of a few people. They don't like not knowing something. I don't know how much benefitting the public is a motivator but I'm sure it's in there somewhere.

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