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 7.44 million (2022)
Average Annual Population Growth Rate 1.5% (2017-2022)
GDP at PPP (current international dollars) 70.66 billion (2022)
Annual Growth Rate of GDP (%) 2.5 (2022)
GDP per capita at PPP (current international dollars) 9,384 (2022)

Sources: ADB Basic Statistics 2023, World Development Indicators (accessed July 2023)



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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ADB Boosts Climate Resilience in Health Systems of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Viet Nam

A six-year, pioneering regional technical assistance initiative has boosted the capacity of health systems in Cambodia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), and Viet Nam to respond to climate-induced health threats amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) announced today.


Viet Nam Electricity Signs Power Purchase Agreement with Lao PDR Wind Farm

Viet Nam Electricity and Impact Energy Asia Development (IEAD) Limited signed the 25-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for the Monsoon Wind Project on 12 July 2021. The 600-megawatt wind energy project will be the largest wind farm in Southeast Asia and the first cross-border wind energy project. It will be located in Sekong and Attapeu provinces in Southern Lao PDR, and export green energy to Central Vietnam through a 500 kilovolt transmission line. Construction is expected to begin in 2022, with commercial operation aimed for 2025.  


Luang Prabang Station along Lao PDR-People's Republic of China Railway Nears Completion

The Luang Prabang Station along the Lao PDR-People's Republic of China (PRC) railway is set to be completed in August, notes the China Radio International Vientiane. It will have two platforms, four tracks, and a station hall that can accommodate 1,200 passengers. The station’s roof incorporates a distinctive “three vertical lines, one diagonal” design in the steel structure.  


Vientiane toll station photo by _khamla_phimmasone_US$. This file comes from Mapillary.com, a service for sharing geotagged photos. All photos are under a CC BY-SA 4.0

Lao PDR-PRC Expressway to Improve Connectivity and Boost Investment

The planned Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR)-People’s Republic of China (PRC) expressway aims to improve the transport of goods and people, promote production, and boost commerce, investment, tourism and services, in line with the Government of Lao PDR's objectives. It spans 440 kilometers and comprises four sections in total. Section 1 running between Vientiane and Vangvieng, is already in use. 


Kuang Si Waterfalls, Luang Prabang, Lao PDR. Photo by Sacha Fernandez via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Lao PDR Prepares Plan to Revive Tourism

The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism (MICT) of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) has endorsed a planned strategy for the revival of the tourism industry, shared Mr. Savankhone Razmountry, Deputy Minister, MICT, at a news conference of the National Operation Centre for COVID-19 in Vientiane on 9 May. 


Lao PDR, Thailand Note Growth in Relations

Thailand Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-O-Cha congratulated newly-elected Lao PDR Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh in a phone conversation on 8 April. The Lao PDR Prime Minister lauded the government of Thailand's efforts in combating the COVID-19 pandemic and thanked them for the support extended to Lao PDR. He also expressed gratitude for Thailand's support in Lao PDR's human resource development.


First container ship received at Vung Ang Port (Lao-Viet International Port). Photo by Nhan Dan Newspaper via Viet Nam Times

Viet Nam International Port in Ha Tinh Receives First Container Cargo

Vung Ang Port (Lao-Viet International Port), a sea port in Ha Tinh, Viet Nam, that will facilitate cargo transportation from Viet Nam to Lao PDR, Thailand's northeastern region, and Viet Nam's central provinces, received its first container ship on 10 April. The shipment was transported from Tan Cang Port in Hai Phong, Viet Nam. The Vung Ang Port can accommodate cargo ships of up to 50,000 DWT (deadweight tonnage) and container ships of up to 2,000 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit).


The watershed of the Nakai Reservoircontains Lao PDR's largest biodiversity area with an outstanding collection of plants and animals endemic to Southeast Asia. Photo by ADB

PRC Firm, Lao PDR Sign MoU for Forest Restoration and Agri Development Study

Jiarun Agricultural Development Co, Ltd., of the People's Republic of China, and the Ministry of Planning and Investment of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the feasibility study for a forest restoration and ecological agriculture development project. The MoU states that the feasibility study will be conducted for 5,000 hectares of land in Sanamxay district of Attapeu province in southern Lao PDR. The project is envisioned to generate over 50,000 local jobs, promoting the local economy and raising the people's living standards.