VIENTIANE, LAO PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC (9 December 2022) — The Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), a member of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Economic Cooperation Program, has the opportunity to leverage its regional position to grow the economy and increase its resilience to external shocks, says a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) report.
Leveraging Benefits of Regional Economic Integration shows how the Lao PDR can leverage its regional position to boost trade, increase agriculture production, and harness the power of its cities to promote inclusive and equitable growth. It details how improving competitiveness, community, and connectivity can help to converge the country’s income and living standards with other GMS member countries. The report also discusses the potential for the Lao PDR to upgrade its value chain positioning, diversify its industries, and capitalize on regional cooperation to achieve its development targets.
“The Lao PDR is strategically located in the heart of the GMS. Along with the country's neighbors, the subregion serves as a major trade partner with the rest of the world. This represents an opportunity to leverage benefits from regional cooperation to escalate development progress,” said ADB Country Director for the Lao PDR Sonomi Tanaka. “ADB has been a key partner in supporting development policy coordination in the subregion, including through defining a practical, goal-oriented work program for promoting regional cooperation.”
The Lao PDR’s regional position offers opportunities. The ADB study says the Lao PDR’s current trading basket indicates there may be unexploited potential for expanding into more diverse products that are traded with regional and global partners. A potential pathway for further economic diversification is through developing shared production and export capabilities via greater regional cooperation.
Cross-border trade, connectivity, and cities are pivotal for driving structural transformation and raising living standards. For the Lao PDR, the link between urban expansion and economic growth has been weak. Urbanization has proceeded at pace, but the country’s cities have remained relatively small, with most cities reported to have less than 300,000 inhabitants. New roads have strengthened connectivity between cities and economic corridors, boosting potential for economic growth.
New policies must be put in place to unlock this potential and provide an enabling environment for new investments. The private sector will have to invest in new capacities to produce more complex products and services while cities need to become centers for sharing resources and fostering innovation. Moving forward, strong public–private dialogue can be used to identify solutions for optimizing the flow of goods and people towards realizing the country’s vision of becoming a regional logistics hub.
ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.