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Sims, K. 2021, ‘Lao PDR in 2020: Pandemic, Debt and Resource Extraction’, in Daljit Singh and Malcolm Cook (ed), Southeast Asian Affairs 2021, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore.

Book Name
Southeast Asian Affairs

Book Author
Daljit Singh and Malcolm Cook

Publisher
ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore.

Published Date
May 2021

Citation
Sims, K., 2020, ‘Lao PDR in 2020: Pandemic, Debt and Resource Extraction’, in Daljit Singh and Malcolm Cook (eds), Southeast Asian Affairs 2021, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore.

Abstract

Four key, interrelated, themes mark Laos in 2020. First is COVID-19 and its socio-economic effects. With just twenty-three reported cases and no reported deaths, Laos has performed exceptionally well in its containment of COVID-19. However, the social and economic effects of policies implemented to respond to the pandemic have been stark. Included among them is Laos’s surging debt, which is not solely a consequence of the pandemic but has been significantly accelerated by the closure of national borders and slowed economic growth. This debt, and particularly its ties to Laos’s infrastructure-led and resource-extractivist development model, is the second key theme discussed in this chapter. In Laos and elsewhere, COVID-19 represents a critical moment for rethinking national development priorities and practices. Third, is China’s continued growing presence within Laos, and the role of Chinese investment and development financing in contributing to Laos’s infrastructure projects, and its debt. While the party-state has a long history of maintaining positive diplomatic relations with a wide diversity of partners, its economic dependency on China is, arguably, pulling it into uncharted territory. Finally, the fourth key theme of 2020 is the party-state’s continued oppression of and violence against those that contest the harmful effects of extractivist development. Particularly important here is continued party-state efforts to prevent online dissent via intimidation and arrest. These are critical challenges for future development.