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Our Work

Speeches Shim

Laos sits at the heart of mainland Southeast Asia, bordering Burma, Cambodia, China, Thailand and Vietnam. As it continues to address and eventually recover from the deep impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure a prosperous future for its people, Laos faces significant challenges stemming from its low-skilled workforce and economic vulnerability. The United States builds on the U.S.-Laos Comprehensive Partnership to help the country meet its development goals, maintain economic sovereignty, and enhance full integration into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the global economy.

USAID partners with Laos to improve the climate for investment and trade, enhance the competitiveness of Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs), strengthen governance and the rule of law, and advance health and education outcomes for Lao people – all of which encourage sustainable and inclusive development, market-driven growth, support economic independence and integration with ASEAN, and foster high-quality international investment.

Laos is one of the poorest countries in Asia.  Even before COVID-19, Laos’ potential for long-term, equitable economic growth was limited by the weakness of its educational and health systems, difficult climate for conducting business and attracting foreign investment, challenging environment when advocating for good governance and rule of law, and deep reliance on China as a source of investment and economic assistance.  USAID partners with the Government of Laos, civil society and the private sector to drive sustainable development in economic growth, governance and the rule of law, health and education. 

Despite past economic growth driven by large-scale mining and hydropower, the majority of enterprises are MSME’s (often informal) and private sector investment remains limited to natural resource extraction.  The COVID pandemic disrupted Laos’ growth trajectory, worsened the government’s fiscal position, and threatens long-term economic prospects.  To bolster diversified and inclusive economic growth, USAID works with the government and the private sector to improve the competitiveness of MSMEs, enhance the business enabling environment, and improve the planning, policies, and performance of the Lao energy sector.

Weak institutional capacity and a lack of transparency undermine government accountability and the rule of law. USAID partners with the Government of Laos to ensure citizen access to justice and legal support in a fair and transparent manner.  To combat trafficking-in-persons, USAID works to reduce the vulnerability of at-risk populations, including labor returnees during the COVID pandemic and prevent survivors from re-trafficking by equipping them with sustainable livelihood skills and raising their awareness on risks.  In addition, we work with civil society partners to strengthen their capacity and increase local ownership to achieve and sustain development goals in the long term.  USAID also works to enhance the capacity and effectiveness of the legislative body in Laos to hold executives accountable to citizens’ needs, and enhance overall accountability and transparency. 

In addition to being vulnerable to transboundary health threats, Laos has some of Southeast Asia’s highest rates of child and maternal mortality and malnutrition.  To improve health outcomes and prevent child stunting, USAID strengthens the nutritional status of women and children by expanding access to clean water and encouraging best practices in sanitation and hygiene.  USAID supports rehabilitation health services to ensure that these are available for people in need, particularly persons with disabilities.  USAID also partners to fight infectious diseases, including HIV and AIDS, malaria.  To respond to the health impacts of COVID-19, USAID has provided commodities such as personal protective equipment and reinforced the systems for testing and providing vaccinations.  Recognizing that education is key to accelerating the success of all development efforts in Laos, USAID is helping to strengthen the primary education system and improve the reading skills of young students giving Laos’ future leaders the skills needed to lead healthy, productive lives.

For more information, please contact infolaos@usaid.gov

Last updated: September 19, 2022

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