Lao Economy

Laos In State Employee Glut

Laos has recruited too many state employees resulting in state spending on salary and supporting allowances reaching alarmingly high levels, a senior government official has said.

Allowances have reached 40 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) surpassing the common level in many countries, Director General of the Public Servant Management Department, Ministry of Home Affairs, Mr Vixay Phandanouvong said at the annual meeting of the ministry.

At present the Lao government employs 2.36 public servants for every 100 people – in most countries the average figure is less than two public servants per 100 people.

“Such high level spending… will minimise the budget divided for development purposes and undermine development as a whole,” Mr Vixay said, adding that only around 30 percent of the GDP is spent on salaries in most other countries.

The director appealed to attendees of the meeting to discuss measures to quash spending while continuing to provide effective governance and public services.

More than 480 cross-country government representatives and policymakers attended the two-day meeting, which will also review the performance of the sector for 2013 and draw up plans for 2014.

A recent hike in public servant numbers stems from the establishment of four new ministries and their provincial and district bodies, with personnel recruited to run the new sectors.

The director told Vientiane Times there are ways to reduce numbers of employees including not establishing unnecessary subordinate bodies under ministries or provincial departments.

In addition, several bodies have appointed more personnel than workloads require with some cases linking to compromised practices rather than principle-based standards.

“Some departments have five to six deputy directors, which exceeds the principle-based standard of about three deputies,” he said.

Moreover, many public servants do not retire when they reach retirement age – 60 years old for men and 55 for women – which has resulted in increased numbers of state employees.

Mr Vixay said often elderly officials realise upon retirement they will have no value to society so they prefer to prolong their employment, and organisations do not adequately enforce retirement guidelines.

Minister of Home Affairs, Mr Khampan Philavong, who presided over the meeting, said the inability of officials to work effectively has also lead to increases in state employees.

He gave an example of department director generals who lack computer skills employing subordinate personnel to assist them.

Mr Vixay urged Laos to reduce the number of its public servants, while improving the quality of the existing personnel and recruiting genuinely qualified staff.

At present Laos has 156,000 state employees with 16,500 recruited in 2013.

Source: Vientiane Times