Freedom House places the Lao PDR near bottom of its Freedom Index


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Laos’ ranking in Freedom House‘s 2017 “Freedom in the World” report

Note: This is another in a series of posts on “Laos by the numbers.”

Feedback and suggestions are welcome.

In its Freedom in the World report for 2017, Freedom House has given the Lao PDR a score of 12, which puts it in the lowest category of “Not Free.”

In two sub-indexes of Political Rights and Civil Liberties, Laos is given rankings of 7/7 and 6/7 respectively. It has held these same rankings since 2010.

This places the Lao PDR very near the bottom of the index, at 151st of 165 countries, and the lowest in Southeast Asia. Scores (and ranks) for other regional neighbours include:

  • China: 15 (143rd)
  • Vietnam: 20 (137th)
  • Cambodia 31 (118th)
  • Thailand 32: (116th)
  • Myanmar 32: (114th)
  • Singapore: 51 (90th)
  • Philippines: 63 (72nd)
  • Indonesia: 65 (63rd)

Excerpts from Freedom House’s overview of the Lao PDR include:

Laos is a one-party state in which the ruling Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) dominates all aspects of politics and government and harshly restricts civil liberties. There is no organized opposition and no truly independent civil society. News coverage of the country is limited by the remoteness of some areas, repression of domestic media, and the opaque nature of the regime. Economic development has led to a rising tide of disputes over land and environmental issues, as well as corruption and the growth of an illegal economy. Such disputes frequently lead to violence, including by the security forces. 

The Laotian government continued to tighten its control over domestic dissent in 2016, partly by monitoring citizens’ activity on social media. In at least three cases, individuals were apparently arrested for comments they posted while working abroad. The authorities also suppressed independent civil society activity. Although Laos hosted the annual ASEAN summit in September, it would not host the parallel ASEAN People’s Forum, a gathering of regional civil society groups. The forum was held in Timor-Leste instead, and participants reported that the Laotian delegation was hand-picked and pressured by the Laotian government to minimize criticism of its record.

Laos ranks 123 out of 176 in Transparency’s corruption index


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Laos’ ranking in Transparency International’s  2016 “Corruption Perceptions Index”

Note: This is another in a series of posts on “Laos by the numbers.”

Feedback and suggestions are welcome.

According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception’s Index for 2016, Laos ranks 123 out of the 176 countries assessed, with a lower ranking indicating greater corruption.

Topping the list are Denmark, New Zealand and Finland, and at the bottom are North Korea, South Sudan and Somalia.

The Lao PDR’s score is 30, which is a considerable improvement over scores of 25 for 2015 and 2014. Other rankings (and scores) in the region include:

  • Singapore: 7th (84)
  • Malaysia: 55th (49)
  • China: 79th (40)
  • Indonesia: 90th (37)
  • Thailand: 101st (35)
  • Philippines: 101st (35)
  • Vietnam: 113th (33)
  • Myanmar: 136th (28)
  • Cambodia: 156th (21)

It is important to note the index is based on perceptions of corruption drawn from various, verifiable data sources, and not an absolute measure.

Laos judged “mostly unfree” in economic freedom


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Laos’ ranking in the Heritage Foundation’s 2017 “Index of Economic Freedom”

Note: This is another in a series of posts on “Laos by the numbers.”

Feedback and suggestions are welcome.

In its 2017 Index of Economic Freedom, the Heritage Foundation ranks the Lao PDR a 123rd out of 180 countries.

Its score of 54 places it in the category of “mostly unfree.” Other categories include free, mostly free, moderately free and repressed. Laos score has remained quite stable over the ten year history of the index.

The index combines indicators of Rule of Law, Government Size, Regulatory Efficiency, and Open Markets.  Hong Kong tops the list, and North Korean is at the bottom.

Rankings and scores of neighbouring countries include:

  • Thailand: 55th (66.2)
  • Cambodia: 94th (59.5)
  • China: 111th (57.4)
  • Myanmar: 146th (52.5)
  • Vietnam: 147 (52.4)

In part, the Heritage Foundation states:

The Laotian economy has shown notable resilience, growing at an average annual rate of more than 7 percent over the past five years. Laos continues to integrate more fully into the system of global trade and investment. The trade regime has become more transparent, and there has been progress in improving the management of public finances.

Substantial challenges remain, particularly in implementing deeper institutional and systemic reforms that are critical to advancing economic freedom. Weak property rights, pervasive corruption, and burdensome bureaucracy, exacerbated by lingering government interference and regulatory controls, continue to reduce the dynamism of investment flows and overall economic efficiency.

Laos ranks 138th on UNDP’s Human Development Index


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Laos’ ranking in the United Nation’s Development Programme’s 2015 “Human Development Index”

Note: This is another in a series of posts on “Laos by the numbers.”

Feedback and suggestions are welcome.

Based on the belief that development should be measured in more than economic terms, the Human Development Index (HDI) includes the dimensions of health (life expectancy), knowledge (formal education) and standard of living (GNI per capita).

Since this index was first compiled in 1990, the Lao PDR has risen slowly from 0.397 to the 2015 value of 0.586, which places it in the category of Medium Development (other categories are Very High, High, and Low).

Laos ranks 138th among the 188 countries on the list. In Southeast Asia, Papua New Guinea ranks lower at 154th (0.516), Myanmar at 145th (0.556) and Cambodia at 143rd (0.563).  Moving up the list is Timor Leste at 133rd (0.605), the Philippines at 116th (0662), Vietnam at 115th (0.683), Indonesia at 113th (0.689). Thailand at 87th (0.740), Malaysia at 59th (0.789), Brunei at 30th (0.865), and Singapore at 5th (0.925).

However, when inequality is considered, Lao’s index falls to 0.427, making it 106th out of 151 countries on the Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI). In Southeast Asia, only Timor Leste is lower at 108th (0.416).

A more complete report on Laos and the HDI can be found on the UNDP website.

Laos ranks 170 out of 180 in press freedom


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Laos’ ranking in Reporters Without Borders‘ 2017 “World Press Freedom Index”

Note: This is another in a series of posts on “Laos by the numbers.”

Feedback and suggestions are welcome.

Reporters without Borders ranks the Lao PDR almost at the bottom of its World Press Freedom Index, with a score of 66.41. Norway ranks at the top of the list with 7.60, and North Korea at the bottom with 84.98.

The criteria evaluated in the questionnaire are pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information.

In 2016, Laos’ ranking was 173rd, and its score 71.58. When the index was first compiled in 2002, its score was 89.00. This rose to 92.00 in 2009 and has been gradually decreasing since then.

Vietnam and China’s ranks (and scores) are somewhat lower at 175th (73.96) and 176th (77.66) respectively. Thailand ranks at 142nd (44.69), Cambodia at 132nd (42.07) and Myanmar at 131st (41.82). Southeast Asia’s highest ranking goes to Indonesia at 124th (39.93),

Reporters without Borders gives the following description of press freedom in Laos:

The Lao Peoples Revolutionary Party (LPRP) exercises absolute control over the media. Increasingly aware of the restrictions imposed on the official media and their self-censorship, Laotians are turning to social media. However, the boom in online news and information platforms is threatened by a 2014 decree under which Internet users who criticize the government and the Marxist-Leninist LPRP can be jailed. Only three of the 40 or so TV channels are privately-owned, which falls far short of addressing the lack of media pluralism in Laos. A decree by the Prime Minister that took effect in January 2016 allows foreign media to set up office in Laos on condition that they submit their content to LPRP censorship.

Laos tops ASEAN in ODA per capita


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Laos’ ranking in terms of Official Development Assistance per capita

Note: This is another in a series of posts on “Laos by the numbers.”

Feedback and suggestions are welcome.

The Lao PDR ranks 53rd out of 155 countries in terms of Official Development Assistance (ODA) per capita, making it the highest aid recipient in Southeast Asia, and the broader ASEAN.

ODA is widely used as a measure of development aid, including of both grants and concessionary loans. A full definition can be found here.

In 2014, ODA to Laos amounted to US$ 70.62 per capita, over one-third higher than any other ASEAN country. ODA received by other ASEAN members (with ranking) include: Cambodia = US$ 52.15 (66th), Vietnam = US$ 46.49 (73rd), Myanmar = US$ 25.83 (100th), Thailand = US$ 5.19 (133rd), Singapore = US$ 4.73 (135th), Malaysia = US$ 0.40 (148th), Indonesia = US$ -1.53 (151th).

ODA has increased sevenfold in the last three decades, from US$ 10.05 in 1984, to US$ 45.16 in 1994, and US$ 47.69 in 2004.

An earlier briefing paper on foreign aid to Laos by Mekong Watch can be found here.