29th August 2016 - Cost of living up by 30 per cent in Laos, but wages stay the same. Most Laotians are low income, slipping into poverty. A kilo of rice has gone from 1.05 to 1.50 US dollars. The prices of beef, fish, pork, chicken and vegetables are also up. Official at the Ministry of Commerce believes the government should raise wages or impose price controls.
The cost of living in Laos has been rising this year despite a stagnant minimum wage, making it difficult for many low-income people to afford staple foods and other daily necessities.
In the capital Vientiane, food prices have increased by an average of 30 per cent since last October, said a senior official in the Lao Ministry of Industry and Commerce, who declined to be named. A kilogram of sticky rice, a daily dietary staple, has shot up to .50 from .05.
Many Laotians are not surprised about the rising prices because they say the Communist government has not been able to control them.
“The prices of beef, fish, pork, chicken, and vegetables keep going up little by little all the time in the capital,” said a resident of the capital Vientiane who requested anonymity.
Laos doesn’t produce most of its own food and must import it along with other goods from neighbouring Thailand.
For this reasons, Laotians living on the northwestern border go shopping in Nong Khai, Thailand, where prices are cheaper. The capital Vientiane is about 20 kilometres from the border along the Mekong River.
The situation is complicated by the fact that the government has not raised the minimum wage of state employees.
We would like to ask the government to reconsider increasing wages and salaries because the cost of living in Laos is rising; if they do not, then authorities have to control the prices,” said a low-income government worker at the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare.
An official at the country’s Department of Domestic Trade, who declined to be named, said that his department is working with other government offices to address the issue.
“The government is concerned about rising costs of living in the country,” he said.
“We are in difficult situation [because] some say government should be laissez-faire and laissez-aller,” he said. “We are a free market economy, so why should the government have to control prices? But others say government should control prices at least for the poor.”
Given the rising inflation (1.97 per cent in July compared with 1.63 per cent in June), many people are no longer confident in the buying power of the Lao currency, the kip, and they are increasingly using foreign currencies, especially US dollars and Thai baht (Asianews)