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What should be done to improve the state of roads in Laos?

Facebook users recently shared a photo of people struggling to use a road filled with potholes. Even though damaged roads are arterial links running the length of the country and through large towns, their construction is sub-standard and repairs are needed every year. Vientiane Times gave members of the public a chance to voice their thoughts on this chronic problem. 


Ms Bounthan Lathyothy, a resident of Pakngum district, Vientiane: It’s true that the quality of the roads in Laos is pretty awful, including main routes leading to neighbouring countries which carry the bulk of traffic. A lot of the damage to these roads is caused by big trucks. Roads are also very dusty in the dry season and muddy and rutted in the rainy season. I don’t know if the authorities carry out checks on these conditions but, even though I don’t know much about road construction, I do know that what we have to put up with at present is of very poor quality and indicative of shoddy workmanship and use of low grade materials. I’m sure that if roads were built to higher standards and properly surfaced, the government would need to spend less on repairs every year.
Mr Sonethong Vixay, a resident of Xaysomboun province: I don’t know how much it costs to build one kilometre of road but I have never seen any good roads in my district or anywhere else. After only a few years, the new surface starts to develop cracks and potholes. I think it’s partly because of use by big trucks, which should be more tightly regulated, but it’s also basically because roads are poorly built in the first place. I don’t know if the Ministry of Public Works and Transport ever checks the quality of construction. Maybe they are paid off by the construction company. However, I hope things will soon improve, which is essential if Laos wants greater connectivity with neighbouring countries and to encourage more travel by tourists.
Ms Sone Keolounnoun, a government official in Luang Prabang
province: It’s clear that many of the roads in Laos are of poor quality. When they get damaged, it takes ages before anyone comes along to repair them. I know our government has a huge debt burden and spends a lot of much money on road construction, but good roads are an essential aspect of development. The authorities should pay more attention to the quality of road building. If more money is spent when a road is first built, it will mean less needs to be spent on repairs every year.

Mr Vin Dala, a government official in Bokeo province: I have read the complaints on Facebook about the repair of roads. Building a road is an expensive undertaking and it’s hard to get rural roads repaired when they are damaged. We have to wait for a long time for repairs, and it’s bad that roads become damaged only a few years after being built or upgraded. Sometimes, the authorities ask villagers to pay for the cost of repairing a road, which I think is unreasonable because how can local people pay for this? It’s very important that we should fight corruption in Laos, and not only with regard to road construction.
Ms Noymany Netthavong, a resident of Vientiane province: I think the authorities should carry out serious quality checks when roads are built, because repairs and upgrades cost a lot of money. It’s also very important that companies go through a competitive bidding process before being awarded a contract to build or upgrade a road. This would mean that a dependable company was chosen to carry out the work. And, of course, the project should be carried out in line with the terms outlined in the contract. The contractor should be fined if quality control targets are not met and potholes soon develop, or the road is not finished by the agreed date.


By Lamphone Pasanthong
(Latest Update September 6, 2023)

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