The South-East Asian nation of Laos has experienced an increasingly rapid pace of development in recent years. One can witness ample evidence of the dynamic nature of changes underway, be it in the greater vitality of cities and expanding urban settlements, the rapidly-expanding number of foreign visitors and tourist offerings and the plethora of newly-opened shopping malls situated around the capital Vientiane and beyond.
Also remarkable is the recent advancement of Japanese business investment and activity in Laos; Some 125 Japan-invested enterprises were operating in Laos as at December 2015, representing a doubling in number over the past few years alone. Major ongoing developments, such as those found in special economic zones proximate to major centers like Vientiane, Savannakhet and Pakse are expected to see further acceleration in economic and social developments underway.
At the same time, traditional agricultural and subsistence lifestyles remain easily observable outside urban areas, where the passage of time flows at a more tranquil pace and people maintain direct connections to the natural environment for their daily needs.
Aiming for graduation from least-developed-country (LDC) status, the Government of Laos has developed its eighth National Socio-Economic Development Plan (2016-2020), seeking to strike a balance between needs for economic expansion and the wise management of natural endowments via exploration of so-called "green growth" strategies.
JICA initiatives seek to support sustainable development with consideration for social, economic and natural environments and supports Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) initiatives for regional integration including institutional strengthening, consolidation and reduction of regional economic disparities.
Supporting the Government of Laos to achieve such aims, JICA has provided assistance in the following four priority areas:
Such cooperation occurs in the context of the close bilateral relationship. In 2015 Laos and Japan celebrated the 60-year anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations. This celebratory year also coincided with the 50th anniversary of the world-first dispatch of Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCVs) to the country in 1965, providing a momentum that continues to build, bringing increased benefits to both sides a half century on.
Looking together to the future, JICA recommits to work in conjunction with the Lao people to consolidate essential progress made so far while considering anew the strategies to achieving successful and desirable locally-led cooperative development outcomes to the advantage of Laos.
Yusuke Murakami, Chief Representative of JICA Laos Office