Australia has announced two new initiatives that are expected to benefit people in Laos, the host country of the ninth Asia-Europe Meeting.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is committing more than 40 million Australian dollars ($41 million) to boost rural livelihood in the Asian nation. The money will be used to improve people’s access to finance by strengthening village banks and providing people financial education. It will also cover support packages for people interested to start a business, such as food vending or retail.
The packages have two dimensions: assistance for food and other basic necessities in the form of cash safety nets, and business support through the provision of equipment, goods and “technical guidance,” according to a press release.
The money will also be used to continue Australia’s work in demining arable land for farming. It is not yet clear who will have access to the funds, but Australia will work with the government of Laos and international nongovernmental organizations to deliver the programs until 2016.
In addition, Gillard announced the establishment of a Laos-Australia Institute that will help the country’s workforce improve their skills. The AU$20 million program will help improve human resource development planning of select organizations in government, civil society and the private sector, among others.
The Institute is expected to open in 2013.
Gillard made the announcements at the Asia-Europe Meeting forum, which serves as a platform for dialogue among leaders of the 27 EU member states, the European Commission, the ASEAN Secretariat and more than 20 Asian nations. The newest countries to join the meeting this year are Norway, Switzerland and Bangladesh.
Some of the key topics in this year’s meeting — which runs Nov. 5-6 — include the reform of international financial institutions, energy and food security, water resources management, climate change, the “deteriorating situation” in Syria and developments in Myanmar. The European Union will host the summit in 2014 in Brussels, Belgium.
Read more development aid news online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders — emailed to you FREE every business day.