Lao People's Democratic Republic

The Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia, and it has the smallest population of the six GMS countries. But it is rich in natural resources, and has benefited from vigorous economic growth in recent years thanks to its mining, agricultural, and energy exports. The country has made impressive progress in achieving many of its Millennium Development Goals. Poverty and hunger have been greatly reduced, and education and health outcomes have improved. Exorts to diversify the economy and strengthen connectivity and collaboration with its GMS and ASEAN partners should lead to continued growth and prosperity in the coming years.


Quick Facts

Population 7.23 million (2020)
Average Annual Population Growth Rate 1.6% (2015-2020)
GDP at PPP (current international dollars) 59.7 billion (2020)
GDP per capita at PPP (current international dollars) 8,563 (2020)

Agriculture

Although commercial farming is on the rise, agriculture in the Lao PDR is still mostly subsistence. Rice—especially sticky rice—is the major crop, and is planted on nearly three-quarters of the cultivated land. Other important products include maize, coffee, sugarcane, and cassava, as well as industrial trees such as rubber and eucalyptus. The Lao PDR is looking to boost the contribution of agriculture to rural poverty reduction, and is collaborating with its GMS partners to modernize and commercialize the sector. This collaboration includes revising its policies on cross-border agricultural trade to attract investment and boost exports.

Energy

Utilizing its impressive water resources, the Lao PDR generates most of its electricity by hydropower, with 50 hydro dams in operation and more being built. The country intends to increase its electricity exports, and has plans to enhance its infrastructure for transmission to Cambodia, the PRC, Thailand, and Viet Nam. Meanwhile, the government’s priority is to ensure that all domestic households have access to electricity, and it has made steady progress in this regard—92% of the population are now connected, from 15% 20 years ago.

Environment

The Lao PDR’s landscape is dominated by rugged mountains and extensive rivers. In addition to water, the country is rich in natural resources such as minerals and forests, and has a great deal of biodiversity. In recent years, the Lao PDR has strengthened its biodiversity conservation eorts in important forest areas. Looking ahead, the country is aiming to establish better systems for controlling air and water pollution caused by agriculture and industry. With its GMS partners, the Lao PDR is also working on green freight solutions for developing more environmentally friendly transport.

Human Resource Development and Health

Human resource development as essential for achieving its socioeconomic development objectives. National priorities include increasing investments in the sector and ensuring that opportunities for human resource development are accessible to all. The Lao PDR has been working to expand and improve technical and vocational education and training, as well as higher education. The country has made considerable progress in improving the health of its people in recent decades. Maternal and child mortality have been reduced, malaria deaths are on the decline, and vaccination coverage is increasing. Health priorities include achieving universal health coverage, improving cross-border disease control, and reducing malnutrition.

Information and Communication Technology

Recognizing the importance of ICT to socioeconomic development and global connectivity, the Lao PDR has steadily improved its telecommunications infrastructure. More than 37% of the population now uses the internet through mobile broadband and fixed (wired) broadband, up from just 20% in 2015. Eorts are under way to further modernize the sector and expand its geographical reach. The targets include extending the telecommunications network to reach 91% of the villages and installing fiber-optic cables in all the country’s districts. The government is also promoting the use of ICT in schools and exploring measures to ensure internet affordability.

Tourism

The Lao PDR’s tourist attractions include World Heritage sites such as the historic town of Luang Prabang and the ancient Vat Phou Temple complex (in Champasak Province). The country’s many ecotourism opportunities and vibrant capital city, Vientiane, also entice visitors from near and far. Of the GMS countries, the Lao PDR receives the highest proportion of international visitors relative to population size. National tourism priorities include local job creation, infrastructure improvement, and environmental sustainability.

Transport

The Lao PDR is actively pursuing its goal of transitioning from a landlocked to a “land-linked” country. Significant progress has been made in improving the nation’s roads, waterways, and air-transport infrastructure in recent decades. Roads remain essential for the movement of goods and people, and the country is now benefiting from better road connectivity with its GMS neighbors. The Lao PDR recognizes the importance of e¤cient transport for achieving its Sustainable Development Goals. With support from its GMS partners, it has ambitious plans for developing an extensive railway system. The country is also looking to improve its rural road network and to climate-proof its transport infrastructure.

Transport and Trade Facilitation

As a landlocked nation, the Lao PDR depends on trade with its GMS partners. Together, the PRC, Thailand, and Viet Nam receive more than 80% of the country’s exports, including timber, electricity, agricultural products, and copper. These three countries provide an even higher proportion of the Lao PDR’s imports. The government is preparing to launch a road-user charging system, and has simplified the clearance procedures at the Viet Nam border. Efforts are also under way to reduce logistics costs for freight transport and to ensure that the transport and trade of food products is safe and disease-free.

Urban Development

In the Lao PDR, the urban areas are home to around 40% of the population. Vientiane is the only large city, with nearly a million people. The government is forging stronger linkages with towns and cities in neighboring countries by supporting the movement of goods and services along the GMS economic corridors. Its urban development goal is to create modern, livable, and environmentally friendly towns that preserve the country’s unique cultural assets.


GMS Program Officials and Contacts in Lao PDR


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Greater Mekong Subregion: 25 Years of Partnership

ADB and the Lao's Peoples Democratic Republic : Fact Sheet


Lao PDR, Supthavy Construction Sign Agreement for the Fourth GMS Corridor Towns Development Project

The Department of Public Works and Transport of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), and Supthavy Construction Maintenance Complete Sole Ltd. signed an agreement for the fourth Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Corridor Towns Development Project. Mr. Khouanta Douanglaty, department director, and Ms. Chinadavone Siritham, President, Supthavy Construction led the signing.  


ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa visits the National Solar Park on 11 November. Photo by ADB.

ADB-supported National Solar Park in Cambodia Connects to Grid

A partnership between the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Electricite du Cambodge (EDC), Cambodia’s national power utility, to develop a 100-megawatt (MW) National Solar Park reached a milestone with the park’s first 60 MW solar photovoltaic (PV) power generation plant connecting to the national grid. ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa marked the occasion with a visit to the solar park on 11 November, during which he initiated the start of power delivery.


Plant Sciences Degree at the Faculty of Agriculture. Students at the National University of Lao PDR use microscopes to study plant pests. ADB is helping the Lao PDR, through the Improved Sanitary and Phytosanitary Handling in Greater Mekong Subregion Trade Project, to supply skilled human resources who can help ensure a safe, healthy, and profitable product that benefits the Lao people and the Lao economy.

GMS Trade Project in Lao PDR Boosts Knowledge in Plant Health

It is important for Lao PDR to have their own experts that know how to survey, monitor, understand and protect their food system. Having specialists that understand the context in which Lao plants can be grown and protected helps ensure that crops will be grown in harmony with local environments and communities.


Boosting Livelihoods in Lao People’s Democratic Republic through Better Water Infrastructure

ADB approved $36.5 million loan and grant for the Lao PDR in 2012 to improve the country’s capacity and preparedness to manage and mitigate the impacts of flood and drought through the Greater Mekong Subregion Flood and Drought Risks Management and Mitigation Project in Vientiane capital and provinces of Khammouan and Savannakhet.


Photo by Kaikeo Saiyasane via Xinhua

PRC-Lao PDR Railway Launches Freight Transit Yard to Boost Transshipment of Goods to Thailand

A freight transit yard where cargo is transferred for transshipment has been put into operation by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) – Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) Railway on 1 July 2022 at the Vientiane South Station.  The freight yard promises to boost the PRC-Lao PDR railway’s logistics, improving the link between the railways of PRC-Lao PDR and Thailand.  


Power lines from the 1070 MW Nam Theun 2 hydropower plant in Lao PDR. 95% of the power produced by the plant is exported to Thailand, and the rest are consumed locally. Photo by Ariel Javellana/ADB.

Lao PDR Ramps Up Electricity Exports to Viet Nam

The Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic is increasing its electricity exports generated from its hydropower projects to its neighbors in the Greater Mekong Subregion, including Viet Nam. Lao PDR and Viet Nam have signed MoUs targeting to export 8,148 MW from Lao PDR to Viet Nam by 2030. Lao PDR also signed contracts with Viet Nam Electricity (EVN) to implement 25 projects with a combined capacity of 2,180 megawatts.  


Power lines in Lao PDR. Photo by Ariel Javellana/ADB.

PRC, Lao PDR Achieve Two-way Energy Trade

The People’s Republic of China and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic have successfully conducted two-way transmission of electricity on 20 June 2022, marking a milestone in their energy trade. The Nam Tha 1 Hydropower Station, Lao PDR, sent electricity to Yunnan province, PRC. 

China Southern Power Grid (CSG) and Electricite du Laos (EDL) signed a 115 kV power trade agreement in March 2022 to help consume Lao PDR’s surplus hydropower during the rainy season. During the dry season, CSG will export power supply to northern Lao PDR. 


Migrant worker operates an electric loom in a textile mill. ©ILO/Areeluck Phankhian via Flickr

Improved Labor Management Initiatives Aim to Attract More Migrant Workers to Thailand

Mr. Pairoj Chotikasathien, head of the Thai Labour Ministry’s employment department, shared that the Thai Cabinet has approved improved labor management measures to address the gap in migrant worker employment. These measures include (i) allowing documented workers to stay until February 2025; and (ii) allowing undocumented workers to register and work until the same date. 


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