Continuing our celebration of the 70th Anniversary of Laos-Australia diplomatic relations, we are honoured to feature an outstanding Australia Awards Alumni, the Vice Minister of Planning and Investment, His Excellency Doctor Sthabandith Insisiengmay.
Doctor Sthabandith Insisienmay completed a Master of Economics of Development at the Australian National University (ANU) in 2001 and recalled many friends warning him that Canberra would be too a quiet city for someone his age. “But I was not at all concerned,” he said. By then, the young Sthabandith had already completed a bachelor’s degree in economics from Chulalongkorn University, the highest-ranked university in Thailand, and was looking forward to deepening his knowledge of economics at the Australian National University – one of the finest universities worldwide.
Today as Vice-Minister, Dr Insisienmay is proud of his alma mater. “Many ANU graduates work in major international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other highly influential institutions. “My faculty was the National Center for Development Studies (NCDS), a school specializing in developmental matters. The majority of the students were foreigners from China, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and some European nations”. Dr Insisienmay was enthused by the faculty’s teaching method, applied economics, and its “grade A” quality. “Having studied in several countries, I can truthfully say that the knowledge gained during my years in Australia is the foundation for my further education guiding me to this point.”
Speaking to our embassy team, he humbly thanked luck and fate for placing him at the National Economic Research Institute (NERI), a department under the ministry of planning and investment, where he grew professionally and prepared himself for his current position. Knowledge from applied economics, econometrics, and economic modelling all became crucial for his work. In fact, the Vice-Minister is one of the only two economists in the country to have laid the groundwork on the economic modelling for Laos.
As Vice-Minister for Planning and Investment, Dr Insisienmay has become a role model for younger generations of Lao academics.
“Achievements we’ve reached as a team has drawn the attention of several young staff to this field and make them want to pursue further education in economics,” he said, adding that he himself has been encouraging them to apply for scholarships to study in Australia, because “I know for sure the knowledge gained during the study will be essential in their future careers”.
Reflecting on his own experience, embarking on his learning journey without a clear goal, Dr Insisienmay has advice to hopeful scholars, “It is important to find out beforehand what your career goals are, even for those who have no work experience. Knowing your goals in life will help you to focus on specific courses, and the benefits you will acquire could multiply in two or three folds compared to not having a clear goal”.
Among his responsibilities as a Vice-Minister at the Ministry of Planning and Investment, His Excellency Sthabandith Insisiengmay oversees international cooperation, a unique position that gives him a comprehensive and clear picture of foreign Aid coming to Laos. He acknowledged that Australia is among the leading donors for the country. “Australia’s support for Lao education and human resource development is monumental, including the number of scholarships, accessibility and quality. As a direct beneficiary of the Australia Awards Scholarships, and on behalf of the Lao government, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the Australian people and their government for the friendship and kindness toward Lao people and for their generosity”. He noted that Australian Aid for Laos has increased since the outbreak of COVID-19, specifically in the areas of public health, economic recovery, human rights and GEDSI (gender equality, disability and social inclusion).
Doctor Sthabandith congratulated the two nations for reaching the significant 70th milestone. He wished the friendship everlasting while asking for continuous support from Australia to the development of Laos. “Laos responses to COVID-19 impacts quite well, still we need more assistance from our development partners. Our bilateral cooperation is moving forward on the right track: Australia operates within its Aid and Investment Framework, while Laos is based on our National Green Growth Strategy. Speaking as the Vice-Minister for Planning and Investment, in charge of international cooperation, I will do my best to enhance our relations and widen our cooperation”.