Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) is one of the countries in the world with the strongest rate of growth: 6,9 in 2017, classifying 11th at world level (the world factbook, CIA). The strong growth of the past years is due to the boom of natural resources economy, especially hydro-power energy, which the country exports to its neighbors.
Still, the better off of the economy has involved only partially the population, since the natural resources exploitation is characterized by the risk of rent-seeking behaviour and corruption instead of entrepreneurial and value-adding activities (it is frequent the concession of agreements on a case by case decision taking). Many MNEs either bring foreign labour for the construction of their projects or hire local workers but mostly for low skilled jobs and during a limited amount of time. Resource seeking foreign direct investment is capital and technology-intensive, but it is limited in time and isolated. There are few business linkages with locals.
Thus, the living conditions are still low compared with similar income countries. As example, we can think at the cooking process. The graph below show the percentage of population that has access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking, that has passed from 4 in 2000 to 5,6% in 2016.
Today the vast majority of households in Laos continue to rely on fuelwood, in the form of firewood and charcoal, as their main source of cooking energy. The widespread use of fuel-inefficient biomass cookstoves has increased the health risk from indoor air pollution for those who spend many hours in the household cooking area, primarily women and their young children, in turn, adding to public health expenditures and global greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, the opportunity cost of collecting fuelwood deprives women of time they might otherwise use for education or other productive activities. On the supply side, cookstove production is slow and labor-intensive, while smoke generated from poorly designed kilns degrades the quality of the local environment.
As a response, the World Bank has developed an intervention path based on the increasing of both the regulation and the household awareness.
- Lao PDR,Pathways to Cleaner Household Cooking in Lao PDR, An Intervention Strategy (May 2013)
- World Bank, DataBank, World Development Indicators
- Laos, the consequences of growth on workers