Thursday, August 30, 2012

More money for policemen

I borrowed this list of violations directly enforced in Thailand, from the popular Bangkok blogger Richard Barrow, as an example how the notorious underpaid and underchallegend Lao policemen can get more money and do something for road safety (but still have to get up, walking a few meters to stop a car):

แข่งรถในทาง – road racing
ขับรถเร็ว – speeding
แซงในที่คับขัน – dangerous overtaking
เมาแล้วขับ – drink driving
ขับย้อนศร – driving against traffic flow
ไม่สวมหมวกนิรภัย – not wearing helmet
จอดรถซ้อนคัน – double parking
ไม่ติดแผ่นป้ายทะเบียน – car has no license plates
มลพิษควันดำ – black smoke from exhaust
จอดรถในที่ห้ามจอด – parking in forbidden zones
จอดรถบนทางเท้า – parking on sidewalks
ขับรถบนทางเท้า – driving on sidewalks
แท็กซี่ปฏิเสธไม่รับผู้โดยสาร – taxis refusing to take passengers

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

One more time a motobike hits a dog (CCTV footage)

This is the second time in a few months when a motobike hits a dog right in front of my house. This time again, the driver didn't even slow down a bit, clearly seeing that 4 dogs are on the street. I haven't seen so many dumb people on motobikes since I am in Laos. Is this the buddhist thing that they don't care? What other excuse are there? (This idiot didn't even had a helmet, so it's pure luck he didn't get hurt more)

The street I live is a short cut between Khouviang and Lao Thai road, so the traffic is much more than it should be in a residential area. And people are driving to fast (including the NGO people in their big SUVs). And yes, we do have kids playing here, and it is just a matter of time when one them got hit.

Crackdown on (certain) foreigners in Laos

So here we are, the big clean up starts: Yesterday the VT reported that beggars will be brought to a certain center before and during the ASEM summit, to clean up the streets and put some rouge on it.

Now the crackdown on foreigners starts:

Hawkers, nail cutters, beauticians, scrap metal collectors, vegetable and seafood vendors in markets or doing other informal work will not be allowed to stay.
Most of them are Vietnamese. Interesting is, that the Chinese workers for the ASEM facilities are under special regulations.

Also, Foreigners found owning and operating businesses such as wholesale or retail shops, tailors and livestock farms without business licences can apply for legal documents if the value of the business amounts to at least one billion kip.

What isn't mentioned in the recent VT is the new law that will take place soon, where foreigners can only stay 4 years and have then to return to their home country (so the Lao government can force me to go to Germany?).

I wonder what kind of consultants wrote this laws? It reminds me a bit to the Vietnamese Labour Law.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Students on a chicken farm

Bangkok Post had an article about CP Laos, the local branch of the successful Thai food company, known for its chicken, poultry and pig. It says :" He said C.P Laos now employed about 600 local workers and 30 Thai
staff. Some of the local staff were former university students who had
been undergoing training with the company."
I was just wondering why you need - beside some specialists and administration staff - university graduates on a chicken farm?

Government urges land reforms

Vientiane Times reported about land reforms:
"During a
riveting keynote speech given at a international land and forestry
conference in Vientiane today, Dr. Souvanhpheng Bouphanouvong,
President of the National Assembly of Lao's Committee on Economic
Planning and Finance, announced the government's intention to undergo
a nationwide formal process of large scale land reform, and prioritize
the need for increased local land management, given that access to
land for rural households is fundamental to sustained poverty
Later on it is said that the gov is concerned about land disputes. I just wonder how this new policy will fit to the practise to give land to people working in the government. And if Vietnam and China will still get concessions and leases.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Old Thalat Sao to be demolished soon

Everyone was asking why the hell they started building a new shopping mall around a old one. But thats they way they do planning in Laos. Anyway, now they decided to finally demolish the old Thalat Sao, forcing 400 sellers to move into the Malls 1+2. I am wondering where these 400 shops are since Mall 1 is full already and in Mall 2 I can't see this ammount of empty shops. Anyway, selection of products will remain small, quality extreme low.

Vientiane Times told us some numbers about the rent today (for the new Mall):

"Vientiane authorities, Talat Sao Shopping Mall Company, and merchants met to discuss contracts and rental fees at the mall. At the meeting they agreed to exempt the rental fees for relocated retailers for the first six months, but after that they will be required to pay US$150 per month.

In the second year, the company will charge US$200 per month and US$ 300 per month for the third year. The rental fees for the following years will be adjusted according to GDP of the country. The investors will be required to pay the government about US$1.7 million for property compensation."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

DECIDE provides data from Laos

A project paid by the Swiss government called DECIDE shows data about Laos in a nice and fancy way. The website says:

The Lao DECIDE info project strives to stimulate
data and information sharing among sectors and
administrative levels towards improved evidence-
based socio-economic planning and decision-
making in the Lao PDR.
Through a set of tools and procedures, the project
actively promotes the availing of spatial and statistical
data - initially from the Lao national Population and
Housing Census 2005 - in various formats to users
with a variety of individual needs.
You can zoom into maps, compare at least two maps and get data from Migration to Female Head of Household. Downside is, the Data is from the 2005 census (but I was told data from 2011 is on the way), and it is provided by the Department of Statistics, so I am not sure how reliable it really is.

Anyway, that's kind of the only data available so far, so if you register, you get access to more tools like a GIS viewer where you can create your own maps.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Why Lao markets are not ready yet

When I studied economics, one of the most important topics was price development. I had a professor who skiped tradional theory and went straight with us to chaos theory as a base for predicting (and explaining) economic developments. At that time in the early 90s he was sure that price finding can be explained by chaos theory as well.
Today I went to Phimphone market, one of the more expensive minimarts, to buy Kraft cheese slices. They cost 29.000 KIP. Before, I went to M-Point Mart, where they ask for 32.000 Kip. That is a 10 percent price difference. You would expect that M-Point is cheaper, since the have more branches and therefore a bigger turnover. But they are not.
The price for a cup of coffee latte goes from 10.000 KIP (Tonmali Cake) to 21.000 KIP (Joma).
It seems that the chaos is there, and that the traditional market mechanisms aren't working. Otherwise the price range would be much closer. Most Lao businesses are guessing prices, do not have warehouse management, no real proper accounting (and cost management), so they just put some ammount of profit on top of the ammount they purchased. There is no observation of competitors.
So how does chaos can solve this? It just needs more players. And bigger ones. Once Big C comes in, retailers will check them out - because then they have to compete, because competiton is then obvious.
For now, the price is not set by the balance between supply and demand, but by gut feeling - a kind of chaotic situation as well.

Sinouk Cafe opens branch at riverside

Having coffeshops already on Samsenthai road, at Home idea and Thalat Sao malls, Sinouk Cafe just opened a new branch at a prime location: On the riverside, next to the M-Point-Mart.
I was always a fan of the Scandinavian roast and the Italian roast from Sinouk, but never got it in the shops for a latte since they only served French roast, what is too bitter for my taste.. So I wrote to Sinouk (yes, the CEO), and he answered me within hours, promising to advice his staff to brew any coffee Sinouk has in his selection.
I am really impressed about the quick reply as well as the action he immediatly took.
This morning, I gave it a try: The shop itself is like the others, furniture is okay, but not fancy, outside seating propably the best place for a coffee in town (once the trucks disappearing it may even get better).
I ordered my Italian Roast coffee and I got it. Staff speaks English, is very friendly, coffee is good, so are the croissants - all ingredients in place for a perfect morning breakfast. Enjoy yourself!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Copyright issues Part something

My complains lead to success: One expat website now has a written agreement with a publisher to re-publish there content, and told me they are aware now of copyright laws and understood my explanation of how to use (or not use) content from the internet.  A big step forward. Now it is up to other website owners in Laos to respect copyright laws.

Wild West in Vientiane

I know we have a Wind West Pub, but now we have real cowboys as well. I saw them yesterday at the riverside (and yes, of course it is a cultural stereotype to assume people on horses are automatically cowboys as they would have this only in America.)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Emergency exits in Children Hospital locked

Careful parents when visiting the Childrens Hospital at the Mitthapap Hospital. The doors at the main entrance facing the street are locked, although they are emergency exits. I also found emergency lights pulled off the power plug.
The childrens hospital, constructed with the support of Korean taxpayers, seems to be another example that Lao authorities don't care about these gifts, they just let it run down as any office here and then beg for a new one.
This main door is locked with a padlock.

Power is plugged off.

In this particular case they even risk the death of tens if not hundreds of people in case of a fire, because when I was there only a small backdoor in the ground floor was open. There is no excuse for that, everyone should be aware of such security risks and act. For me, publishing it in my blog is may way of acting.

I saw this once in Vietnam at Medical Family Care, when doors were locked as well and fire exits blocked. A day after I mentioned this, the problems was solved and the management apologised.  Unfortunately I couldn't find a website for the Korean-Lao Childrens Hospital.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Crackdown on pirated software in Laos?

VT writes:

Major companies in Laos will face serious fines if they continue to use unlicensed computer software once the country joins the World Trade Organisation at the end of this year.

We know this from Vietnam. Major companies means first of all foreign companies. I don't think that a single Lao government office or company is running a legal windows licence. I don't even know if you can purchase one here offline (or even online, since the lack of credit cards here).

Even if Microsoft will help and support the government, most Lao SMEs are just not able to pay the requested amount of licence fees.What supported the distribution of Linux and Open Software a lot in Vietnam. Construction companies will face serious problems first I guess, as it was in Vietnam when Archetype, a company that belongs to the French owned Apple Tree (Exotissimo, Annam Gourmet etc.) was seriously fined for using copied CAD software.

As long as intellectual property isn't a value here and is not enforced, this crackdown is a joke and will make the business in Laos even harder as it is already. Expect another dropdown in the Business Environment Index next year.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

New attraction in Khon Kaen

Just found this in todays Bangkok Post:

Two Khon Kaen-based companies, Sirikarn Group and Fairy Plaza, have jointly invested 350 million baht to launch Ton Tann Green Market as a new attraction in the Northeastern province.

Performances are rotated daily, such as a show by the Snake Village in Ban Khok Sa-nga, local dances, puppet shows and musical contests.
The market is open daily from 4-11pm. It also has a dedicated zone selling decorative plants, flowers and home decoration which is open from 10am.
The market also welcomes shoppers with dogs.
Visit for a map and details.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Swimming pools in Vientiane

I really enjoyed the pool that came with my apartment in Saigon, and although I am not a big swimmer, I just enjoyed to dip in the pool from time to time. So do many expats, I heard. But not many houses and apartments come with a pool, so you have to rely on the hotels or gyms.

Lao Plaza Hotel, Mercure and Rashmis have all decent pools open to the public for a fee of around 10 USD. Not to bad, but a bit too much for frequent swimmers. If you have a Sengdara fitness center membership, usage of the pool is included. But people told me it is quite crowded on the weekend and not always as clean as expected.

Two more options: The recently opened New Arena (opposite UNICEF turn into the small alley next to the Singaporean Embassy) offers a new (and new is always good in Laos) pool and football fields. Pool fee is 49.000 KIP per day, a coffeeshop/small restaurant is attached. Only disadvantage: Not much shadow at the pool area.

If you don't mind going local, then save money, bring your own food and enjoy the place. It is privately owned, costs 10.000 KIP entrance and is just okay. No fancy features, and I haven't see the toilets from inside, but the water was very clean, and the areas as well. It is located near the Lao Tobacco factory. After the factory (going direction friendship bridge), turn left and then right, follow the street for about 300 meters, the it is on the right side (looks a bit like a regular family home, but the pools are in the back)