10 Things to Know about the Greater Mekong Subregion

The Greater Mekong Subregion is promoted as a single destination for international visitors. It develops tourism that is profitable, pro-poor, and ecologically sustainable.

The Greater Mekong Subregion is promoted as a single destination for international visitors. It develops tourism that is profitable, pro-poor, and ecologically sustainable. Photo: ADB.

The countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) have undergone an amazing transformation since 1992, and more changes are on the way. Here are 10 things you might not know about this dynamic subregion.

  1. Since 1992, the Asian Development Bank has invested about $6.7 billion in loans and $124.9 million for technical assistance in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Projects under the GMS economic cooperation program follow a three-pronged strategy: increased connectivity, improved competitiveness, and a greater sense of community (the 3 "Cs").
  2. Agriculture is the backbone of Greater Mekong Subregion economies. With over 60% of the subregion’s 332 million people engaged in small-scale agriculture, it directly supports the livelihoods of nearly 200 million people.
  3. Demand for energy is surging in the GMS. Demand for energy in the lower Mekong countries—Cambodia, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, and Viet Nam—is expected to nearly triple between 2012 and 2025.
  4. In the Greater Mekong Subregion, 60 million people in rural areas depend on their surrounding environment for food, water, energy, and income. Forests, wetlands, mangroves, farmlands, and other ecosystems account for between 20% and 55% of GMS countries’ wealth.
  5. Human resource development, which enhances the productivity of people and helps create strong economies and equitable societies, is a key factor in the Greater Mekong Subregion’s work to reduce poverty and ensure political stability, social cohesion, and national security.
  6. Tourism is flourishing in the Greater Mekong Subregion, with tourist spending reaching a record high of $66.8 billion in 2015. GMS countries are recognizing the need to develop tourism in ways that increase benefits to local communities and protect the environment. Governments see well-managed tourism as a powerful tool for reducing poverty, and growing national economies in a fair and equitable manner.
  7. Transport lies at the heart of Greater Mekong Subregion cooperation. The development of physical infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, in tandem with policies and procedures for crossing borders and developing trade along key economic corridors, has been central to efforts to forge a truly interconnected subregion.
  8. During the past decade, the GMS road network has expanded by almost 200,000 kilometers, and overland road freight has almost doubled. Yet despite these advances, remaining barriers to trade and transport continue to inhibit the subregion’s full economic potential.
  9. With much of the subregion’s hard transport infrastructure now in place, there has been a greater focus in recent years on the rules, regulations, agreements and other “software” to make the movement of goods and services across borders in the GMS faster, easier, cheaper, more compliant, and more inclusive.
  10. By 2050, the Greater Mekong Subregion is expected to be at least 50% urbanized. This will bring vast changes to the economies of the subregion. What was once a primarily agricultural area is transforming into a place where cities and towns are the main drivers of economic growth.

Related Links

  • Learn more about the Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation Progam.
  • View the latest GMS statistics.
  • Read more articles about the GMS.

Last Updated: 5 February 2017