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Laos Economy Profile

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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 more than 6% per year in the period 1988-2008, and Laos' growth has more recently been amongst the fastest in Asia, averaging more than 7% per year for most of 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 20% of GDP and 73% of total employment. Recently, the country has faced a persistent current account deficit, falling foreign currency reserves, and growing public debt.

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 held the chairmanship of ASEAN in 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 limited labor pool, a small domestic market, and corruption remain impediments 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)
$49.34 billion (2017 est.)
$46.16 billion (2016 est.)
$43.13 billion (2015 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)
$16.97 billion (2017 est.)
GDP - real growth rate
6.9% (2017 est.)
7% (2016 est.)
7.3% (2015 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)
$7,400 (2017 est.)
$7,000 (2016 est.)
$6,600 (2015 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

Gross national saving
22.7% of GDP (2017 est.)
21.3% of GDP (2016 est.)
15.8% of GDP (2015 est.)
GDP - composition, by end use
household consumption: 63.7% (2017 est.)
government consumption: 14.1% (2017 est.)
investment in fixed capital: 30.9% (2017 est.)
investment in inventories: 3.1% (2017 est.)
exports of goods and services: 34.6% (2017 est.)
imports of goods and services: -43.2% (2017 est.)
GDP - composition by sector
agriculture: 20.9% (2017 est.)
industry: 33.2% (2017 est.)
services: 45.9% (2017 est.)
Population below poverty line
22% (2013 est.)
Labor force
3.582 million (2017 est.)
Labor force - by occupation
agriculture: 73.1%
industry: 6.1%
services: 20.6% (2012 est.)
Unemployment rate
0.7% (2017 est.)
0.7% (2016 est.)
Unemployment, youth ages 15-24
total: 18.2%
male: 20.8%
female: 15.5% (2017 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share
lowest 10%: 3.3%
highest 10%: 30.3% (2008)
Distribution of family income - Gini index
36.7 (2008)
34.6 (2002)
Budget
revenues: 3.099 billion (2017 est.)
expenditures: 4.038 billion (2017 est.)
Taxes and other revenues
18.3% (of GDP) (2017 est.)
Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)
-5.5% (of GDP) (2017 est.)
Public debt
63.6% of GDP (2017 est.)
58.4% of GDP (2016 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices)
0.8% (2017 est.)
1.6% (2016 est.)
Central bank discount rate
4.3% (31 December 2010)
4% (31 December 2009)
Commercial bank prime lending rate
18.5% (31 December 2017 est.)
18% (31 December 2016 est.)
Stock of narrow money
$1.131 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$1.1 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
Stock of broad money
$1.131 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$1.1 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
Stock of domestic credit
$9.3 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$8.623 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares
$1.012 billion (2012 est.)
$576.8 million (2011 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
8% (2017 est.)
Current Account Balance
-$2.057 billion (2017 est.)
-$2.07 billion (2016 est.)
Exports
$3.654 billion (2017 est.)
$2.705 billion (2016 est.)
Exports - commodities
wood products, coffee, electricity, tin, copper, gold, cassava
Exports - partners
Thailand 42.6%, China 28.7%, Vietnam 10.4%, India 4.4% (2017)
Imports
$4.976 billion (2017 est.)
$4.739 billion (2016 est.)
Imports - commodities
machinery and equipment, vehicles, fuel, consumer goods
Imports - partners
Thailand 59.1%, China 21.5%, Vietnam 9.8% (2017)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold
$1.27 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$940.1 million (31 December 2016 est.)
Debt - external
$14.9 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$12.9 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home
$15.14 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
$12.44 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
Exchange rates
kips (LAK) per US dollar -
8,231.1 (2017 est.)
8,129.1 (2016 est.)
8,129.1 (2015 est.)
8,147.9 (2014 est.)
8,049 (2013 est.)
Fiscal year
1 October - 30 September

Source: CIA World Factbook
This page was last updated on Friday, November 27, 2020

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