Laos is a socialist country, with high government expenditure. Its main import and export partners are regional, but it is in the process of opening up further. Laos is trying to promote development by becoming more friendly to businesses. Over the past decade, the total tax rate as a percentage of profits for medium sized businesses has fallen by roughly ten percentage points, and the time required to start a business has decreased by nearly half. This has led to increasing capital formation. It is also relying on increasing official development assistance since the financial crisis around 2008.
The Laotian people are rather poor. The country’s per capita gross domestic product continues to lag behind that of Asia’s more developed economies, but it claims more wealth than most of its neighbors. The distribution of employment signals a move away from the agricultural sector towards the services sector, commensurate with the worldwide trend and driven by development. The increase in industry can largely be attributed to the growth of textile industry. Life expectancy at birth is also increasing, suggesting an improvement in medical care.
In spite of the country’s setbacks, it is making inroads into modern technical society. Fixed broadband subscriptions have grown significantly over the past few years. However, the vast majority of internet traffic in Laos still passes through mobile phones. An increasing number of registered sellers on Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce platform, underscores the country’s economic relationships with its largest neighbor. For those that believe that Asia will continue to grow in influence in the coming decades, Laos is a country to watch.