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Laos

(Lao People’s Democratic Republic)

A land-locked country, larger than the UK in terms of land mass, but with a population smaller than Hong Kong, the People’s Republic of Laos is one of the world’s most underdeveloped countries.

Bordered by Burma and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west, Laos is a multi-ethnic country with the politically and culturally dominant Lao people making up approximately sixty percent of the population, mostly in the lowlands.

During the early-1990s and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the country embarked on a series of reforms known as the New Economic Mechanism under which it gradually liberalised its economy and divested many of its state owned enterprises. However it still remains one of the last bastions of communism, retaining a highly regulated command economy.

It has enjoyed long political ties and economic assistance with its socialist neighbour Vietnam, but in an effort to reduce this dependence and broaden its economy, it joined ASEAN in 1997, soon before the Asian financial crisis. During the crisis it suffered raging inflation, which led it to questioned the western capitalist model, and refocus its political and economic strategy increasingly on that of China.

It’s economy is still greatly dependent on agriculture, but efforts gave been made in the past 15 years to encourage foreign investment and diversify the economy.  Notably, this includes the successful development of hydropower to produce electricity for export to its neighbours, which now form an increasing share of GDP, but tourism and the mining of copper, gold and gems have also played an important role in driving the economy forward. As a result, the country has enjoyed impressive growth, and since 2011, it is no longer classified as a low income country by the World Bank.

 

Population: c. 6,477,200  
Capital City: Vientiane
Government: Socialist Republic, Single Party State
State Languages: Lao, others
GDP per capita (PPP): $2,500
Growth Rate: 5%-7% per annum

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