Laos ranks 138th on UNDP’s Human Development Index

138

out of

188

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.

Will Donors Remember?

As donors, diplomats and development partners gather for this year’s Roundtable Implementation Meeting in Pakse, will they take time to consider those who were arrested or disappeared in this same city in November 2000 and October 2001, simply for expressing their views?

Will they recall the students who met similar fates earlier in Vientiane in October, 1999?

Will they remember Sombath Somphone or Sompawn Khantisouk, who have been enforcibly disappeared, or their families, who continue to suffer without knowing the fate or alleged wrongdoing of their loved ones? Continue reading “Will Donors Remember?”

Lao Land Protest Villagers Held in Failing Health

Radio Free Asia: 02 November 2017

Two Yeub village residents arrested for cutting down rubber trees are shown in a file photo.

Fourteen villagers in Laos’s Sekong province jailed since July for cutting down rubber trees on farm land claimed by a Vietnamese company are being held incommunicado, with some in failing health, sources say.

Speaking to RFA’s Lao Service, a relative of one of those held said that the villagers have been refused visits from their families since Oct. 2, when he was last able to see them.

Some of the jailed villagers may be suffering from illness or malnutrition, RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Continue reading “Lao Land Protest Villagers Held in Failing Health”

Laos tops ASEAN in ODA per capita

53

out of

155

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.

 

 

Will Laos ever have ‘another Sombath’?

Will other civil society leaders emerge who are able to see beyond the implementation of projects to a wider vision and analysis?

Given the silence within Laos following Sombath’s disappearance, might there be more cases?

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

134

out of

139

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.

Face à l’impunité du régime laotien, ne nous taisons pas !

Libération: 15 Décembre 2016

Anne-Sophie Gindroz, ancienne directrice de Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation au Laos

Sombath Somphone en 2005. Il avait fondé l’ONG Padetc. Photo Bullit Marquez. AP

Fondateur d’une ONG de soutien aux paysans, le leader communautaire Sombath Somphone est porté disparu depuis quatre ans. Les autorités du Laos sont pointées du doigt pour leur autoritarisme et leur politique répressive.

Il y a quatre ans, le leader communautaire Sombath Somphone était enlevé devant un poste de police à Vientiane au Laos. C’était le 15 décembre 2012. Dans d’autres pays, la police lance généralement un appel au public pour rechercher la personne disparue. Pas au Laos où l’on vous intime de ne pas poser de questions. Dans d’autres pays, la police accueille favorablement toute aide. Pas au Laos où les offres d’assistance ont été systématiquement refusées. Dans d’autres pays, la population et les médias sont encouragés à diffuser l’information. Pas au Laos où les avis de recherche affichés ont été déchirés et la publication dans les journaux est soumise à autorisation spéciale. Continue reading “Face à l’impunité du régime laotien, ne nous taisons pas !”

Development partners: Where are the people?

declaration-word-cloud

Above is a word cloud generated from the Vientiane Declaration on Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation  from the 2015 High Level Roundtable Meeting.

Where are the people? The term only appears three times in the document itself, and those are within the Lao PDR’s name.

Other terms such as rights, empowerment, participation, rural, ethnic minority, and even core sectors such as education, health or agriculture are also missing.

Surely development partners use these words in soliciting resources and reporting on programmes, so why are they so noticeably absent in this important document meant to guide development action for the next decade?

Shui-Meng’s remarks at AEPF11

Remarks by Ng Shui-Meng, read at the opening of the Asian-Europe People’s forum in Ulaanbataar:

AEPF-2016-02

Greetings to all participants gathered together at this 11th AEPF in Ulaan Baatar. Once more representatives from civil society groups across Asia and Europe are gathered together for another Asia-Europe People’s Forum. Two years ago I was in Milan at the 10th AEPF recalling Sombath Somphone’s role and engagement in the 9th AEPF in Vientiane and his optimism and vision of seeing civil society groups, working alongside governments and businesses to support the fostering of more inclusive and sustainable societies across Asia and Europe, and especially for Laos. Unfortunately, Sombath’s aspirations and expectations of a safe and inclusive space for civil society engagement and debate were misplaced.  Two months after the 9th AEPF Sombath was disappeared right in front of a police post in Vientiane, with his abduction clearly recorded by the Lao police surveillance camera.

AEPF11-LogoNow, nearly four years later, Sombath is still missing. His abduction has been acknowledged world-wide as an “Enforced Disappearance”, and his case remains open at the UN Working Group for Enforced Disappearances, as well as at the UN Universal Periodic Review. To all the questions and calls for accountability of Sombath’s abduction, the Lao Government has stubbornly maintained the position that the state is not involved, and the police are still investigating.  Continue reading “Shui-Meng’s remarks at AEPF11”

A clear condemnation is necessary

LMHR 2016-06-14Sombath continues to be an inspiration to many in Laos and beyond. Those who struggle for justice, for sustainable development, for respect of fundamental rights deserve better than silence.

…it is of utmost importance that international community present in Laos clearly condemns his enforced disappearance. It is not enough to ask for an investigation. A clear condemnation is necessary to defend Sombath’s legacy in the area of sustainable development. We cannot let propaganda damage Sombath’s reputation and contribution to his country, and have rumors being spread on reasons justifying what happened to him, to the point that Sombath has become a taboo in his own country.

From Is International Aid Complicit in the Repression in Laos? by Anne-Sophie Gindroz. Presented at a conference of the same title sponsored by the Lao Movement for Human Rights held in Paris on 14 June 2016. Click on the link for the full presentation.