Laos

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Modern-day Laos has its roots in the ancient Lao kingdom of Lan Xang, established in the 14th century under King FA NGUM. For 300 years Lan Xang had influence reaching into present-day Cambodia and Thailand, as well as over all of what is now Laos. After centuries of gradual decline, Laos came under the domination of Siam (Thailand) from the late 18th century until the late 19th century when it became part of French Indochina. The Franco-Siamese Treaty of 1907 defined the current Lao border with Thailand. In 1975, the communist Pathet Lao took control of the government ending a six-century-old monarchy and instituting a strict socialist regime closely aligned to Vietnam. A gradual, limited return to private enterprise and the liberalization of foreign investment laws began in 1988. Laos became a member of ASEAN in 1997 and the WTO in 2013.

Geography

Location

Southeastern Asia, northeast of Thailand, west of Vietnam

Geographic coordinates

18.00° N, 105.00° E

Area 84/257

total: 236,800 sq km

land: 230,800 sq km

water: 6,000 sq km

Area - comparative

slightly larger than Utah

Land boundaries

total: 5,274 km

border countries (5): Burma 238 km, Cambodia 555 km, China 475 km, Thailand 1,845 km, Vietnam 2,161 km

Coastline

0 km (landlocked)

Maritime claims

none (landlocked)

Climate

tropical monsoon; rainy season (May to November); dry season (December to April)

Terrain

mostly rugged mountains; some plains and plateaus

Elevation

mean elevation:

elevation extremes:

lowest point: Mekong River 70 m

highest point: Phu Bia 2,817 m

Natural resources

timber, hydropower, gypsum, tin, gold, gemstones

Land use

agricultural land: 10.6%

arable land 6.2%; permanent crops 0.7%; permanent pasture 3.7%

forest: 67.9%

other: 21.5% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

3,100 sq km (2012)

Total renewable water resources

333.5 cu km (2011)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)

total: 3.49 cu km/yr (4%/5%/91%)

per capita: 588.9 cu m/yr (2005)

Natural hazards

floods, droughts

Environment - current issues

unexploded ordnance; deforestation; soil erosion; most of the population does not have access to potable water

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note

landlocked; most of the country is mountainous and thickly forested; the Mekong River forms a large part of the western boundary with Thailand

People and Society

Nationality

noun: Lao(s) or Laotian(s)

adjective: Lao or Laotian

Ethnic groups

Lao 54.6%, Khmou 10.9%, Hmong 8%, Tai 3.8%, Phuthai 3.3%, Lue 2.2%, Katang 2.1%, Makong 2.1%, Akha 1.6%, other 10.4%, unspecified 1% (2005 est.)

Languages

Lao (official), French, English, various ethnic languages

Religions

Buddhist 66.8%, Christian 1.5%, other 31%, unspecified 0.7% (2005 est.)

Population 104/238

6,911,544 (July 2015 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 34.1% (male 1,190,119/female 1,166,774)

15-24 years: 21.31% (male 731,531/female 741,107)

25-54 years: 35.54% (male 1,211,600/female 1,245,010)

55-64 years: 5.23% (male 177,142/female 184,409)

65 years and over: 3.82% (male 119,392/female 144,460) (2015 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 62.8%

youth dependency ratio: 56.6%

elderly dependency ratio: 6.2%

potential support ratio: 16.1% (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 22.3 years

male: 22 years

female: 22.6 years (2015 est.)

Population growth rate 79/233

1.55% (2015 est.)

Birth rate 60/224

24.25 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Death rate 110/225

7.63 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Net migration rate 149/222

-1.09 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Urbanization

urban population: 38.6% of total population (2015)

rate of urbanization: 4.93% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

VIENTIANE (capital) 997,000 (2015)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.02 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 0.99 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.97 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.83 male(s)/female

total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2015 est.)

Maternal mortality rate 21/184

197 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate 32/224

total: 52.97 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 58.52 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 47.21 deaths/1,000 live births (2015 est.)

Life expectancy at birth 181/224

total population: 63.88 years

male: 61.88 years

female: 65.95 years (2015 est.)

Total fertility rate 62/224

2.82 children born/woman (2015 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

49.8% (2011/12)

Health expenditures 181/191

2% of GDP (2013)

Physicians density

0.18 physicians/1,000 population (2012)

Hospital bed density

1.5 beds/1,000 population (2012)

Drinking water source

improved:

urban: 85.6% of population

rural: 69.4% of population

total: 75.7% of population

unimproved:

urban: 14.4% of population

rural: 30.6% of population

total: 24.3% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access

improved:

urban: 94.5% of population

rural: 56% of population

total: 70.9% of population

unimproved:

urban: 5.5% of population

rural: 44% of population

total: 29.1% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

0.26% (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

11,100 (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

500 (2014 est.)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate 179/191

3% (2014)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight 22/138

26.5% (2012)

Education expenditures 147/173

2.8% of GDP (2010)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 11 years

male: 11 years

female: 10 years (2013)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Lao People's Democratic Republic

conventional short form: Laos

local long form: Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao

local short form: Pathet Lao (unofficial)

etymology: name means "Land of the Lao [people]"

Government type

communist state

Capital

name: Vientiane (Viangchan)

geographic coordinates: 17.58° N, 102.36° E

time difference: UTC+7 (12 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions

17 provinces (khoueng, singular and plural) and 1 capital city* (nakhon luang, singular and plural); Attapu, Bokeo, Bolikhamxai, Champasak, Houaphan, Khammouan, Louangnamtha, Louangphabang, Oudomxai, Phongsali, Salavan, Savannakhet, Viangchan (Vientiane)*, Viangchan, Xaignabouli, Xaimsomboun, Xekong, Xiangkhouang

Independence

19 July 1949 (from France)

National holiday

Republic Day, 2 December (1975)

Constitution

previous 1947 (preindependence); latest promulgated 13-15 August 1991; amended 2003 (2015)

Legal system

civil law system similar in form to the French system

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of Laos

dual citizenship recognized: no

residency requirement for naturalization: 10 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Lt. Gen. CHOUMMALI Saignason (since 8 June 2006); Vice President BOUNNYANG Vorachit (since 8 June 2006)

head of government: Prime Minister THONGSING Thammavong (since 24 December 2010); Deputy Prime Ministers SOMSAVAT Lengsavat (since 26 February 1998), THONGLOUN Sisoulit (since 27 March 2001), Maj. Gen. ASANG Laoli (since May 2002), BOUNPON Bouttanavong (since July 2014), PHANKHAM Viphavan (since July 2014)

cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president, approved by the National Assembly

elections/appointments: president and vice president indirectly elected by the National Assembly for a 5-year term (no term limits); election last held on 30 April 2011 (next to be held in 2016); prime minister nominated by the president, elected by the National Assembly for 5-year term

election results: CHOUMMALI Saignason (LPRP) reelected president; BOUN-GNANG Volachit reelected vice president; percent of National Assembly vote - NA; THONGSING Thammavong elected prime minister; percent of National Assembly vote - NA

Legislative branch

description: unicameral National Assembly or Sapha Heng Xat (132 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by simple majority vote from candidate lists provided by the Lao People's Revolutionary Party; members serve 5-year terms)

elections: last held on 30 April 2011 (next to be held in 2016)

election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - LPRP 128, independent 4

Judicial branch

highest court(s): People's Supreme Court (consists of NA judges)

judge selection and term of office: president of People's Supreme Court elected by National Assembly on recommendation of National Assembly Standing Committee; vice president of People's Supreme Court and judges appointed by National Assembly Standing Committee; judge tenure NA

subordinate courts: provincial, municipal, district, and military courts

Political parties and leaders

Lao People's Revolutionary Party or LPRP [BOUNNYANG Vorachit]

note: other parties proscribed

Political pressure groups and leaders

NA

International organization participation

ADB, ARF, ASEAN, CP, EAS, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Interpol, IOC, IPU, ISO (subscriber), ITU, MIGA, NAM, OIF, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Flag description

three horizontal bands of red (top), blue (double width), and red with a large white disk centered in the blue band; the red bands recall the blood shed for liberation; the blue band represents the Mekong River and prosperity; the white disk symbolizes the full moon against the Mekong River, but also signifies the unity of the people under the Lao People's Revolutionary Party, as well as the country's bright future

National symbol(s)

elephant; national colors: red, white, blue

National anthem

name: "Pheng Xat Lao" (Hymn of the Lao People)

lyrics/music: SISANA Sisane/THONGDY Sounthonevichit

note: music adopted 1945, lyrics adopted 1975; the anthem's lyrics were changed following the 1975 Communist revolution that overthrew the monarchy

Economy

Economy - overview

The government of Laos, one of the few remaining one-party communist states, began decentralizing control and encouraging private enterprise in 1986. Economic growth averaged 6% per year from 1988-2008 except during the short-lived drop caused by the Asian financial crisis that began in 1997. Laos' growth has more recently been amongst the fastest in Asia and averaged nearly 8% per year for the last decade.

Nevertheless, Laos remains a country with an underdeveloped infrastructure, particularly in rural areas. It has a basic, but improving, road system, and limited external and internal land-line telecommunications. Electricity is available to 83% of the population. Agriculture, dominated by rice cultivation in lowland areas, accounts for about 25% of GDP and 73% of total employment.

Laos' economy is heavily dependent on capital-intensive natural resource exports. The economy has benefited from high-profile foreign direct investment in hydropower dams along the Mekong river, copper and gold mining, logging, and construction, although some projects in these industries have drawn criticism for their environmental impacts.

Laos gained Normal Trade Relations status with the US in 2004 and applied for Generalized System of Preferences trade benefits in 2013 after being admitted to the World Trade Organization earlier in the year. Laos began a one-year chairmanship of ASEAN in January 2016. Laos is in the process of implementing a value-added tax system. The government appears committed to raising the country's profile among foreign investors and has developed special economic zones replete with generous tax incentives, but a small labor pool remains an impediment to investment. Laos also has ongoing problems with the business environment, including onerous registration requirements, a gap between legislation and implementation, and unclear or conflicting regulations.

GDP (purchasing power parity) 116/230

$37.5 billion (2015 est.)

$34.87 billion (2014 est.)

$32.46 billion (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$12.55 billion (2015 est.)

GDP - real growth rate 13/225

7.5% (2015 est.)

7.4% (2014 est.)

8% (2013 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP) 163/230

$5,400 (2015 est.)

$5,100 (2014 est.)

$4,700 (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

Gross national saving 41/179

26.5% of GDP (2015 est.)

25.3% of GDP (2014 est.)

25.8% of GDP (2013 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 58.2%

government consumption: 14.4%

investment in fixed capital: 36.6%

investment in inventories: 1.6%

exports of goods and services: 42.9%

imports of goods and services: -53.7%

(2015 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 23.1%

industry: 33.4%

services: 43.5% (2015 est.)

Agriculture - products

sweet potatoes, vegetables, corn, coffee, sugarcane, tobacco, cotton, tea, peanuts, rice; cassava (manioc, tapioca), water buffalo, pigs, cattle, poultry

Industries

mining (copper, tin, gold, gypsum); timber, electric power, agricultural processing, rubber, construction, garments, cement, tourism

Industrial production growth rate 5/202

10% (2015 est.)

Labor force 100/233

3.532 million (2015 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 73.1%

industry: 6.1%

services: 20.6% (2012 est.)

Unemployment rate 7/207

1.3% (2012 est.)

1.4% (2013 est.)

Population below poverty line

22% (2013 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 3.3%

highest 10%: 30.3% (2008)

Distribution of family income - Gini index 81/144

36.7 (2008)

34.6 (2002)

Budget

revenues: $3.095 billion

expenditures: $3.723 billion (2015 est.)

Taxes and other revenues 125/219

24.7% of GDP (2015 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) 171/220

-5% of GDP (2015 est.)

Public debt 84/176

48.6% of GDP (2015 est.)

47.6% of GDP (2014 est.)

Fiscal year

1 October - 30 September

Inflation rate (consumer prices) 78/226

1.3% (2015 est.)

4.1% (2014 est.)

Central bank discount rate 85/156

4.3% (31 December 2010)

4% (31 December 2009)

Commercial bank prime lending rate 18/184

19% (31 December 2015 est.)

19.2% (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of narrow money 147/192

$1.166 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$1.154 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of broad money 120/193

$6.509 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$6.461 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of domestic credit 115/191

$6.529 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$6.241 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares 107/121

$1.012 billion (2012 est.)

$576.8 million (2011)

Current account balance 162/197

-$3.55 billion (2015 est.)

-$3.242 billion (2014 est.)

Exports 127/224

$3.115 billion (2015 est.)

$2.662 billion (2014 est.)

Exports - commodities

wood products, coffee, electricity, tin, copper, gold, cassava

Exports - partners

China 34.2%, Thailand 27.4%, Vietnam 15.7% (2014)

Imports 123/223

$4.912 billion (2015 est.)

$4.271 billion (2014 est.)

Imports - commodities

machinery and equipment, vehicles, fuel, consumer goods

Imports - partners

Thailand 55.2%, China 25.6%, Vietnam 6.6% (2014)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold 132/170

$976.3 million (31 December 2015 est.)

$889.7 million (31 December 2014 est.)

Debt - external 108/206

$9.552 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

$8.615 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home 86/120

$15.14 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

$12.44 billion (31 December 2011 est.)

Exchange rates

kips (LAK) per US dollar -

8,151.6 (2015 est.)

8,049 (2014 est.)

8,049 (2013 est.)

8,007.3 (2012 est.)

8,035.1 (2011 est.)

Energy

Electricity - production 91/220

12.1 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - consumption 136/219

2.874 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - exports 41/218

2.537 billion kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports 61/219

1.127 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity 90/214

3.217 million kW (2013 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels 208/214

1.7% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels 125/214

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants 7/214

98.3% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources 192/212

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production 155/214

0 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Crude oil - exports 149/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - imports 212/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves 154/215

0 bbl (1 January 2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production 199/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption 180/212

3,200 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports 193/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports 173/213

3,160 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Natural gas - production 209/216

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption 162/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports 131/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports 90/214

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves 157/212

0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy 157/212

1.623 million Mt (2012 est.)

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines 81/219

total subscriptions: 920,000

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 14 (2014 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular 122/217

total: 4.6 million

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 68 (2014 est.)

Telephone system

general assessment: service to general public is improving; the government relies on a radiotelephone network to communicate with remote areas

domestic: 4 service providers with mobile cellular usage growing very rapidly

international: country code - 856; satellite earth station - 1 Intersputnik (Indian Ocean region) and a second to be developed by China (2012)

Broadcast media

6 TV stations operating out of Vientiane - 3 government-operated and the others commercial; 17 provincial stations operating with nearly all programming relayed via satellite from the government-operated stations in Vientiane; Chinese and Vietnamese programming relayed via satellite from Lao National TV; broadcasts available from stations in Thailand and Vietnam in border areas; multi-channel satellite and cable TV systems provide access to a wide range of foreign stations; state-controlled radio with state-operated Lao National Radio (LNR) broadcasting on 5 frequencies - 1 AM, 1 SW, and 3 FM; LNR's AM and FM programs are relayed via satellite constituting a large part of the programming schedules of the provincial radio stations; Thai radio broadcasts available in border areas and transmissions of multiple international broadcasters are also accessible (2012)

Radio broadcast stations

AM 3, FM 34, shortwave 3 (2010)

Television broadcast stations

28 (2010)

Internet country code

.la

Internet hosts 166/232

1,532 (2012)

Internet users 142/217

total: 300,000

percent of population: 5.8% (2009)

Transportation

Airports 103/236

41 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 8

2,438 to 3,047 m: 3

1,524 to 2,437 m: 4

914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 33

1,524 to 2,437 m: 2

914 to 1,523 m: 9

under 914 m: 22 (2013)

Pipelines

refined products 540 km (2013)

Roadways 89/223

total: 39,586 km

paved: 5,415 km

unpaved: 34,171 km (2009)

Waterways 23/107

4,600 km (primarily on the Mekong River and its tributaries; 2,900 additional km are intermittently navigable by craft drawing less than 0.5 m) (2012)

Military and Security

Military branches

Lao People's Armed Forces (LPAF): Lao People's Army (LPA; includes Riverine Force), Air Force (2011)

Military service age and obligation

18 years of age for compulsory or voluntary military service; conscript service obligation - minimum 18-months (2012)

Military expenditures

NA% (2012)

0.23% of GDP (2011)

NA% (2010)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

southeast Asian states have enhanced border surveillance to check the spread of avian flu; talks continue on completion of demarcation with Thailand but disputes remain over islands in the Mekong River; concern among Mekong River Commission members that China's construction of dams on the Mekong River and its tributaries will affect water levels; Cambodia and Vietnam are concerned about Laos' extensive upstream dam construction

Illicit drugs

estimated opium poppy cultivation in 2008 was 1,900 hectares, about a 73% increase from 2007; estimated potential opium production in 2008 more than tripled to 17 metric tons; unsubstantiated reports of domestic methamphetamine production; growing domestic methamphetamine problem (2009)