Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:
The World Bank is very pleased and honored to be here today, to celebrate the Ground Breaking Ceremony for the Nam Theun 2 hydroelectric project.
Today is a celebration for many reasons:
· It is a celebration of the work that has been done by the Government of Lao PDR, its private sector partners, and the development partners who have worked together to ensure that project has been well-prepared in a transparent and accountable way; that a partnership has been established and financial close accomplished, and that the project is able to move decisively forward in the implementation phase.
· It is a celebration of regional cooperation – with the Government of Thailand demonstrating its strong commitment to its neighboring countries in promoting regional stability and mutually-beneficial economic growth through increased energy and infrastructure links – and through a renewed effort to develop the Mekong Region in a way that will promote growth, benefit the people while protecting the environment.
· It’s a celebration of the public-private partnership which has been the foundation of the preparation for this project, and will be a key factor in the implementation. Private sector commitment to preparing and delivering the project, in close partnership with the Government of Lao PDR and the many public and private stakeholders, is a prime example of the sort of capacity building and knowledge transfer work that is indeed possible in developing countries – and hopefully will be seen as a global model of best practice.
· And, it’s a celebration for the people of Nakai – who have patiently waited a very long time, have listened to many speeches, talked to countless visitors, and have participated in many, many consultations. Now, the waiting is over.
In 2000, the World Commission on Dams (WCD) report found that the key to better dam projects is to assess options, evaluate environmental and social aspects, and adopt a people-centered approach. This is why the Bank worked with the Government of Lao PDR and the private sector developers to undertake studies assessing alternatives and the best options to promote sustainable development in Lao PDR. It is also why this project has had the most extensive consultations process in the history of the country before the World Bank decided to approve the project in March 2005.
Today our focus in on ensuring that:
· the project delivers real, durable benefits for the people of Lao PDR
· the project is done transparently, in adherence to the environmental and social safeguards,
· that the Government continues with its program of economic and structural reform, and puts in place a sound system of revenue management geared at reducing poverty and protecting the environment,
· that NTPC works to ensure that the people whose lives will be affected by the project will not just be the same but in fact be better off, and that conservation areas of huge biodiversity significance will be protected
· and that the development partners all continue to give their support and assistance along the way, in close coordination with the Government and NTPC to see that this project delivers benefits to the people of Lao PDR.
Nam Theun 2 is of course, a very large and complex project. It will have environmental and social effects – any project of this undertaking will. There may be problems – which will need to be addressed quickly by a responsive and accountable implementing team. But we believe the project, if implemented well, will be able to help the people of Nakai, of Khammouane, and of Lao PDR – by giving them the opportunity for a better life, by providing real revenues for poverty reduction programs, and building a more environmentally-sustainable future.
We must therefore all ensure that we are indeed committed to working together in the spirit of cooperation and partnership that has defined the journey thus far, and together achieving our ultimate, underlying goal – harnessing Lao PDR’s strength of hydropower and will and commitment of its people – into a development success story, one capable of improving lives, reducing poverty, and giving Lao citizens a better hope for the future.