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Laos (2008)

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Laos 2008 year

Administrative divisions 16 provinces (khoueng, singular and plural) and 1 capital city* (nakhon luang, singular and plural); Attapu, Bokeo, Bolikhamxai, Champasak, Houaphan, Khammouan, Louangnamtha, Louangphrabang, Oudomxai, Phongsali, Salavan, Savannakhet, Viangchan (Vientiane)*, Viangchan, Xaignabouli, Xekong, Xiangkhoang
Age structure 0-14 years: 41.2% (male 1,349,352/female 1,338,252)

15-64 years: 55.7% (male 1,795,029/female 1,835,168)

65 years and over: 3.1% (male 90,188/female 114,009) (2007 est.)
Agriculture - products sweet potatoes, vegetables, corn, coffee, sugarcane, tobacco, cotton, tea, peanuts, rice; water buffalo, pigs, cattle, poultry
Airports 42 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways total: 9

2,438 to 3,047 m: 2

1,524 to 2,437 m: 4

914 to 1,523 m: 3 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways total: 33

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1

914 to 1,523 m: 9

under 914 m: 23 (2007)
Area total: 236,800 sq km

land: 230,800 sq km

water: 6,000 sq km
Area - comparative slightly larger than Utah
Background Modern-day Laos has its roots in the ancient Lao kingdom of Lan Xang, established in the 14th Century under King FA NGUM. For three hundred years Lan Xang had influence reaching into present-day Cambodia and Thailand, as well as over all of what is now Laos. After centuries of gradual decline, Laos came under the domination of Siam (Thailand) from the late 18th century until the late 19th century when it became part of French Indochina. The Franco-Siamese Treaty of 1907 defined the current Lao border with Thailand. In 1975, the Communist Pathet Lao took control of the government ending a six-century-old monarchy and instituting a strict socialist regime closely aligned to Vietnam. A gradual return to private enterprise and the liberalization of foreign investment laws began in 1986. Laos became a member of ASEAN in 1997.
Birth rate 34.98 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Budget revenues: $470.4 million

expenditures: $643.5 million (2007 est.)
Capital name: Vientiane

geographic coordinates: 17 58 N, 102 36 E

time difference: UTC+7 (12 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Climate tropical monsoon; rainy season (May to November); dry season (December to April)
Coastline 0 km (landlocked)
Constitution promulgated 14 August 1991
Country name conventional long form: Lao People's Democratic Republic

conventional short form: Laos

local long form: Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao

local short form: none
Death rate 11.28 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Debt - external $3.179 billion (2006)
Diplomatic representation from the US chief of mission: Ambassador Ravic R. HUSO

embassy: 19 Rue Bartholonie, That Dam, Vientiane

mailing address: American Embassy Vientiane, APO AP 96546

telephone: [856] 21-26-7000

FAX: [856] 21-26-7190
Diplomatic representation in the US chief of mission: Ambassador PHIANE Philakone

chancery: 2222 S Street NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone: [1] (202) 332-6416

FAX: [1] (202) 332-4923
Disputes - international Southeast Asian states have enhanced border surveillance to check the spread of avian flu; talks continue on completion of demarcation with Thailand but disputes remain over islands in the Mekong River; concern among Mekong Commission members that China's construction of dams on the Mekong River will affect water levels
Economic aid - recipient $379 million (2006 est.)
Economy - overview The government of Laos, one of the few remaining one-party Communist states, began decentralizing control and encouraging private enterprise in 1986. The results, starting from an extremely low base, were striking - growth averaged 6% per year in 1988-2007 except during the short-lived drop caused by the Asian financial crisis beginning in 1997. Despite this high growth rate, Laos remains a country with a underdeveloped infrastructure, particularly in rural areas. It has no railroads, a rudimentary road system, and limited external and internal telecommunications, though the government is sponsoring major improvements in the road system with support from Japan and China. Electricity is available in urban areas and in most rural districts. Subsistence agriculture, dominated by rice, accounts for about 40% of GDP and provides 80% of total employment. The economy will continue to benefit from aid from international donors and from foreign investment in hydropower and mining. Construction will be another strong economic driver, especially as hydroelectric dam and road projects gain steam. Several policy changes since 2004 may help spur growth. In late 2004, Laos gained Normal Trade Relations status with the US, allowing Laos-based producers to benefit from lower tariffs on exports. Laos is taking steps to join the World Trade Organization in the next few years; the resulting trade policy reforms will improve the business environment. On the fiscal side, a value-added tax (VAT) regime, slated to begin in 2008, should help streamline the government's inefficient tax system.
Electricity - consumption 1.193 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - exports 728 million kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports 326 million kWh (2005)
Electricity - production 1.715 billion kWh (2005)
Elevation extremes lowest point: Mekong River 70 m

highest point: Phou Bia 2,817 m
Environment - current issues unexploded ordnance; deforestation; soil erosion; most of the population does not have access to potable water
Environment - international agreements party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Ethnic groups Lao Loum (lowland) 68%, Lao Theung (upland) 22%, Lao Soung (highland) including the Hmong and the Yao 9%, ethnic Vietnamese/Chinese 1%
Exchange rates kips per US dollar - 9,658 (2007), 10,235 (2006), 10,820 (2005), 10,585.5 (2004), 10,569 (2003)
Executive branch chief of state: President Lt. Gen. CHOUMMALI Saignason (since 8 June 2006); Vice President BOUN-GNANG Volachit (since 8 June 2006)

head of government: Prime Minister BOUASONE Bouphavanh (since 8 June 2006); Deputy Prime Ministers Maj. Gen. ASANG Laoli (since May 2002), Maj. Gen. DOUANGCHAI Phichit (since 8 June 2006), SOMSAVAT Lengsavat (since 26 February 1998), and THONGLOUN Sisoulit (since 27 March 2001)

cabinet: Ministers appointed by president, approved by National Assembly

elections: president and vice president elected by National Assembly for five-year terms; election last held 8 June 2006 (next to be held in 2011); prime minister nominated by president and elected by National Assembly for five-year term

election results: CHOUMMALI Saignason elected president; BOUN-GNANG Volachit elected vice president; percent of National Assembly vote - 100%; BOUASONE Bouphavanh elected prime minister; percent of National Assembly vote - 97%
Exports 728 million kWh (2005)
Exports $720.9 million (2007 est.)
Exports 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Exports 0 bbl/day (2004)
Exports - commodities wood products, coffee, electricity, tin, copper, gold
Exports - partners Thailand 42.1%, Vietnam 9.5%, China 4% (2006)
Fiscal year 1 October - 30 September
Flag description three horizontal bands of red (top), blue (double width), and red with a large white disk centered in the blue band
GDP - composition by sector agriculture: 41.2%

industry: 32.5%

services: 26.3% (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate 7% (2007 est.)
Geographic coordinates 18 00 N, 105 00 E
Geography - note landlocked; most of the country is mountainous and thickly forested; the Mekong River forms a large part of the western boundary with Thailand
Household income or consumption by percentage share lowest 10%: 3.4%

highest 10%: 28.5% (2002)
Illicit drugs estimated opium poppy cultivation in 2005 was 5,600 hectares, about a 45% decrease from 2004; estimated potential opium production in 2005 was 28 metric tons, a significant decrease from 200 metric tons in 2003; unsubstantiated reports of domestic methamphetamine production; growing domestic methamphetamine problem
Imports 326 million kWh (2005)
Imports $1.199 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Imports 0 cu m (2005)
Imports 2,898 bbl/day (2004)
Imports - commodities machinery and equipment, vehicles, fuel, consumer goods
Imports - partners Thailand 68.8%, China 11.3%, Vietnam 5.6% (2006)
Independence 19 July 1949 (from France)
Industrial production growth rate 12% (2007 est.)
Industries copper, tin, gold, and gypsum mining; timber, electric power, agricultural processing, construction, garments, tourism, cement
Infant mortality rate total: 81.44 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 90.91 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 71.56 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices) 5% (2007 est.)
International organization participation ACCT, ADB, APT, ARF, ASEAN, CP, EAS, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Interpol, IOC, IPU, ISO (subscriber), ITU, MIGA, NAM, OIF, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO (observer)
Irrigated land 1,750 sq km (2003)
Judicial branch People's Supreme Court (the president of the People's Supreme Court is elected by the National Assembly on the recommendation of the National Assembly Standing Committee; the vice president of the People's Supreme Court and the judges are appointed by the National Assembly Standing Committee)
Labor force 2.1 million (2006 est.)
Labor force - by occupation agriculture: 80%

industry and services: 20% (2005 est.)
Land boundaries total: 5,083 km

border countries: Burma 235 km, Cambodia 541 km, China 423 km, Thailand 1,754 km, Vietnam 2,130 km
Land use arable land: 4.01%

permanent crops: 0.34%

other: 95.65% (2005)
Languages Lao (official), French, English, and various ethnic languages
Legal system based on traditional customs, French legal norms and procedures, and socialist practice; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Legislative branch unicameral National Assembly (115 seats; members elected by popular vote from a list of candidates selected by the Lao People's Revolutionary Party to serve five-year terms)

elections: last held 30 April 2006 (next to be held in 2011)

election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - LPRP 113, independents 2
Life expectancy at birth total population: 55.89 years

male: 53.82 years

female: 58.04 years (2007 est.)
Literacy definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 68.7%

male: 77%

female: 60.9% (2001 est.)
Location Southeastern Asia, northeast of Thailand, west of Vietnam
Map references Southeast Asia
Maritime claims none (landlocked)
Merchant marine total: 1 ship (1000 GRT or over) 2,370 GRT/3,110 DWT

by type: cargo 1 (2007)
Military - note Laos is one of the world's least developed countries; the Lao People's Armed Forces are small, poorly funded, and ineffectively resourced; there is little political will to allocate sparse funding to the military, and the armed forces' gradual degradation is likely to continue; the massive drug production and trafficking industry centered in the Golden Triangle makes Laos an important narcotics transit country, and armed Wa and Chinese smugglers are active on the Lao-Burma border (2005)
Military branches Lao People's Armed Forces (LPAF): Lao People's Army (LPA; includes Riverine Force), Air Force (2008)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP 0.5% (2006)
National holiday Republic Day, 2 December (1975)
Nationality noun: Lao(s) or Laotian(s)

adjective: Lao or Laotian
Natural hazards floods, droughts
Natural resources timber, hydropower, gypsum, tin, gold, gemstones
Net migration rate 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Pipelines refined products 540 km (2007)
Political parties and leaders Lao People's Revolutionary Party or LPRP [CHOUMMALI Saignason]; other parties proscribed
Political pressure groups and leaders political parties and groups other than LPRP are proscribed
Population 6,521,998 (July 2007 est.)
Population below poverty line 30.7% (2005 est.)
Population growth rate 2.37% (2007 est.)
Radio broadcast stations AM 7, FM 14, shortwave 2 (2006)
Religions Buddhist 65%, animist 32.9%, Christian 1.3%, other and unspecified 0.8% (1995 census)
Sex ratio at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female

under 15 years: 1.008 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 0.978 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.791 male(s)/female

total population: 0.984 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Suffrage 18 years of age; universal
Telephone system general assessment: service to general public is poor but improving; the government relies on a radiotelephone network to communicate with remote areas

domestic: multiple service providers; combined fixed-line and mobile-cellular subscribership about 10 per 100 persons

international: country code - 856; satellite earth station - 1 Intersputnik (Indian Ocean region)
Telephones - main lines in use 90,067 (2006)
Telephones - mobile cellular 638,200 (2006)
Television broadcast stations 7 (includes 1 station relaying Vietnam Television from Hanoi) (2006)
Terrain mostly rugged mountains; some plains and plateaus
Total fertility rate 4.59 children born/woman (2007 est.)
Unemployment rate 2.4% (2005 est.)
Waterways 4,600 km

note: primarily Mekong and tributaries; 2,900 additional km are intermittently navigable by craft drawing less than 0.5 m (2007)
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