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.

 

 

Laos also near bottom of the Economist’s “Democracy Index”

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Laos’ ranking in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2016 “Democracy Index”

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

Feedback and suggestions are welcome.

The Lao PDR ranks 151st out of 167 on the Economist Intelligence Unit’s “Democracy Index” for 2016. The index compiles 60 indicators grouped into five categories, with a score of between 0 and 10 for each category:

  • 8.00 to 10.00 = Full Democracy
  • 6.00 to 8.00 = Flawed Democracy
  • 4.00 to 6.00 = Hybrid Regime
  • 0.00 to 4.00 = Authoritarian Regime

The Lao PDR’s overall score of 2.37 puts Laos firmly in the category of Authoritarian Regime:

Authoritarian regimes are nations where political pluralism has vanished or is extremely limited. These nations are often absolute dictatorships, may have some conventional institutions of democracy but with meager significance, infringements and abuses of civil liberties are commonplace, elections (if they take place) are not fair and free, the media is often state-owned or controlled by groups associated with the ruling regime, the judiciary is not independent, and the presence of omnipresent censorship and suppression of governmental criticism.

The five categories, and Laos’ score in each are:

  • Electoral process and pluralism = 0.83
  • Functioning of government = 2.86
  • Political participation = 1.67
  • Political culture = 5.00
  • Civil liberties = 1.47

Only ten of 167 countries rank lower than Laos in terms of Civil Liberties, and only two are lower in Political Participation.

While North Korea is ranked at the bottom of the list, Laos receives the lowest ranking of any Southeast Asian country. The rankings of neighbouring countries (with scores) include:

  • China = 136th (3.14)
  • Vietnam =131st (3.38)
  • Myanmar = 113th (4.20)
  • Cambodia = 112th (4.27)
  • Thailand = 100th (4.92)

Laos’ score has changed little since the index was initiated in 2006. From that year through 2011 its score remained at 2.10. In 2012, it increased to 2.32 before dropping back to 2.21 through 2015, and then rising to 2.36 in 2016

Laos ranks near bottom of Forbes’ “Best Countries for Business” list

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Laos’ ranking in Forbes 2017 “Best Countries for Business List.”

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

Feedback and suggestions are welcome.

Forbes has rated Laos near the very bottom in its Best Countries for Business ranking for 2017. Only Venezuela, Yemen, Haiti, Gambia, Chad, rank lower. Neighbouring Cambodia ranks 123rd, China 102nd, Vietnam 98th, and Thailand 67th. Sweden, New Zealand and Hong Kong top the list.

Laos also ranked very low on the sub-indicators of Trade Freedom (124th), Technology (120th), Red Tape (123rd), Investor Protection (127th), Corruption (127th), and Personal Freedom (128th). It’s highest ranking is in Market Performance, at 87th.

The accompanying country profile reads:

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.