Australia’s new Ambassador to Lao PDR, Mr Jean-Bernard Carrasco, made his first regional visit to Savannakhet Province on 26-28 February. Ambassador Carrasco called on Savannakhet Governor, HE Mr Santiphab Phomvihane, to discuss Savannakhet Province’s economic and social development progress.
“Savannakhet is a region of increasing commercial dynamism, with an increasingly diversified economy” said Ambassador Carrasco. “Australia and Savannakhet have growing business linkages, a strong development partnership and dynamic people-to-people linkages”.
Savannakhet is Lao PDR’s largest province with the highest population in the country. Australian investment in Savannakhet spans a range of sectors, from agriculture to manufacturing and mining. Ambassador Carrasco met with Australian businesses operating in Savannakhet and attended the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Lao PDR’s networking event on the evening of 26 February, attended by HE Governor Santiphab and around 100 other guests, including the Savannakhet Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Mr Tee Chee Seng, General Manager, led the Ambassador on a tour of Savan Seno Special Economic Zone where he learned more about the success of the economic zones in attracting investment.
Ambassador Carrasco also visited Australia’s support to education in Savannakhet through the Basic Education Quality and Access in Lao PDR (BEQUAL) program, which partners with the Lao Ministry of Education and Sports and the European Union. The program is helping disadvantaged children, including girls and children with a disability, to access quality education.
Alongside Savannakhet Vice Governor HE Mr. Khamphoune Touphaythoune, and Mr Ket Phanluck, Director General of Teacher Education, Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES), the Ambassador officially opened new dormitories and sanitation facilities at Savannakhet Teacher Training College. Together they also launched school infrastructure work in the province at a ground breaking ceremony at Ban Theum Noy School in Phalanxai district. In Savannakhet, Australia is funding the construction and renovation of 69 schools (worth over $2 million) and supporting 123 students to become teachers in remote areas.
Ambassador Carrasco remarked that “Australia has been a long-term supporter of education in Lao PDR, including in Savannakhet. We have a shared interest in giving children the chance of a good education – there is no issue more important for Lao PDR’s socio-economic development.”
Ambassador Carrasco then met with a number of Australian volunteers and Australia Awards alumni demonstrating the active people-to-people linkages between Australia and Savannakhet. He visited the Thasano Rice Research Centre where several Australian Volunteers for International Development are helping local Savannakhet farmers to increase their understanding of pest and disease management to improve farming practices.
The Ambassador said that he looked forward to his next visit to Savannakhet where he hoped to see our trade and investment, development cooperation and people-to-people relationships deepen further.