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heading foldHow we are helping

2013/14 Estimated Outcome

$52.4 million

2014/15 Budget Estimate

$55.6 million


Australia is one of the largest bilateral donors to Laos, and we work in areas critical to Laos’ long-term development and economic growth, including trade and investment reform, education and rural development. Australia’s support will help Laos continue to develop as a stable, well-managed and increasingly prosperous neighbour with growing economic links with Australia and the region.

Australia is assisting Laos increase its level of economic integration with the regional and global economy through aid investments that facilitate trade and strengthen international competitiveness. We are helping Laos meet its reform commitments under, and maximise benefits from, trade and economic frameworks such as the World Trade Organization, the ASEAN Economic Community and the ASEAN Australia New Zealand Free Trade Area. Australia will also support Laos participate effectively in Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations. In 2014-15, Australian assistance will help:

  • diversify and strengthen the competitiveness of the Laos economy by improving the business operating environment
  • reduce export and import clearance times and the number of days required to obtain operating licences. This will be achieved by simplifying regulatory requirements and processes through the review and rationalisation of non-tariff measures and the completion of regulatory assessments in priority sectors
  • provide advisory services to Laos businesses to improve their competiveness and ability to export, with a particular focus on female entrepreneurs.  

Smiling women working in a rice field, standing calf-deep in water planting seedlings. A group of women plant paddy rice seedlings in a field near Sekong, Laos (credit: DFAT).

Universal primary education and better educational outcomes are essential if Laos is to strengthen the skill level of its workforce to build its competitiveness over the longer-term and achieve its target of graduating from Least Developed Country status by 2020. Australia’s aid programme is strongly aligned to Lao Government priorities in improving education quality and access, and includes a focus on reaching students in remote communities, particularly girls, ethnic minorities and children with disabilities. Australia’s investment in education in 2014-15 will focus on:

  • increasing ongoing participation in primary education, including through the provision of school meals to 60,000 children
  • improving learning environments, including rehabilitating 430 schools and providing 76 schools with water and sanitation facilities
  • providing hygiene education to at least 30 schools, benefitting 30,000 students
  • training 500 teachers to improve quality of instruction.

Young boy lies on his back on a floor mat, holding a small weight aloft with straight arms, being watched by two women. A young boy receives physiotherapy following an accident that resulted in severe spinal injuries (credit: DFAT).

Australia is supporting skills development within the private sector and Lao Government by offering in-Australia and in-country tertiary education opportunities, training and by improving the competencies and capabilities of organisations that play a major role in skills development in Laos. In 2014-15, around 50 Australia Awards Scholarships and 70 in-country awards will be offered.

Australia’s investment in rural development helps to generate incomes, improve livelihood opportunities and build vulnerable communities’ resilience to shocks by improving rural infrastructure, clearing land of unexploded ordnance (UXO), improving the availability of financial services and supporting the development of social protection approaches. In 2014-15, we expect to:

  • provide at least 200 kilometres of rural roads and 10 rural access bridges to help increase poor households’ access to basic services and markets
  • support further UXO clearance (working with partners to clear 630 hectares of land benefiting around 250,000 people), risk education and survivor rehabilitation.

Long concrete bridge over river, with man in small boat in foreground. The Friendship bridge built with Australian funding and completed and opened in 1994, crossing the Mekong River and connecting Thailand to Laos (credit: DFAT).

Australia will support production of food and goods for home consumption and the market in poor rural communities through asset transfer and micro-enterprise development programmes that will reach at least 600 people in 2014-15. Australia will expand and strengthen village banks and provide education on savings, loans and avoiding debt traps, as well as work with Lao regulators to make financial services more accessible to the poor. In 2014-15, Australia will provide 80,000 poor people with improved access to financial services.

Archived details of expenditure for this program for 2013–14 can be found here.

Archived details of expenditure for DFAT’s aid program, following the Government’s announcement on 18 January 2014 to revise the aid budget, can be found here.


Results 2011-2012

In 2011:

  • Construction of 162 classrooms in 32 primary schools.
  • School quality training provided to 1135 School Principals, 1571 primary teachers, 391 pre-primary teachers and 2481 Village Education Development Committee members.
  • Offered a total of 66 Australia Awards for the 2012 intake.
  • 70 scholarships were granted to students from disadvantaged backgrounds to study at a Lao university.

Commitments 2012-2013

  • Construction of water and sanitation facilities in more than 300 schools.
  • School quality training of 1529 teachers, 1488 School Principals and 5000 village education development committee members.
  • Provision of school meals to more than 9000 pre-primary and primary students from targeted disadvantaged areas.
  • Provision of around 50 Australia Awards for tertiary study in Australia.
  • Provision of around 70 scholarships to students from disadvantaged backgrounds to study at a Lao university.

Economic development

Results 2011-2012

In 2011:

  • Improved regulatory transparency for businesses through an electronic trade portal.
  • Supported 1200 poor households to improve agricultural productivity, livelihoods and income.
  • An additional 16 160 households gained access to electricity through the national grid.
  • 34km of the national road has been upgraded which benefits more than 10 800 people, increasing poor households’ access to basic services and markets.

Commitments 2012-2013

  • Assisting Laos to streamline, simplify and harmonise regulatory requirements and processes leading to a reduction of export and import clearance times to 7.1 days (from 7.5 days in 2009) and 10.1 days (from 10.6 days in 2009) respectively.
  • Provision of livelihood support to around 400 rural households.
  • Improving rural infrastructure, including 40 kilometers of rural roads.


Results 2011-2012

  • Increased efficiency of budget documentation of distribution.
  • Improved revenue collection and better debt management system.
  • Rationalisation of treasury accounts.

Commitments 2012-2013

  • Continue working the Ministry of Finance to strengthen public financial management to deliver more timely distribution of budget documentation, improvements in revenue collection, a better debt management system and rationalisation of treasury accounts.


Results 2011-2012

  • Supported NGOs and unexploded ordinance (UXO) clearance agencies to clear UXO from 239 hectares of land, benefiting around 17,000 people.

Research overview

Good research can lead to positive change for the world's poorest by enhancing the design and implementation of development policies and programs. That's why Australia is committed to an innovative research portfolio and funds research, including through:

  • competitive funding mechanisms (such as the Australian Development Research Awards)
  • research partnerships with different Australian, international and developing country research institutions
  • commissioning research to address a specific question or clearly defined research gap
  • one-off research grants, when an existing program of research is relevant to the Australian aid program.

More information on how we fund research

Economic Research on trade facilitation in the Mekong

Australian funding to infrastructure projects in Laos are part of a greater Mekong connectivity initiative to improve local people’s access to markets through infrastructure and trade reform.

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Australia is supporting infrastructure initiatives to improve economic growth and poverty reduction in the Mekong. Photo: Jim Holmes / Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

In 2010, Australia commissioned the Centre for International Economics [external website] to produce a report on the economic benefits of increased trade and transport facilitation in the Greater Mekong Subregion to reinforce the economic case for Australia’s investments in these areas.

The report presents evidence to suggest that economic integration is playing an important role in the dynamic performance of the subregion, but that there is scope to expand this role by further reducing the costs of cross-border trade and transport. In most countries there is considerable room for improvement in trade and transport facilitation, and feasible changes could yield significant increases in national incomes. The evidence suggests that complementing infrastructure investments with procedural reforms to reduce costs and delays of cross-border trade could bring about sizeable economic benefits.

CSIRO Mekong Futures

The Exploring Mekong Region Futures project [external website] aims to improve the sustainability of the Mekong Region by investigating the complex relationships between the production, distribution, and use of energy, food and water of the region.

The project focuses on the dynamic interactions that occur between the management of food, energy and water at local and regional scales.

Changes in countries in the Mekong region are shaped by factors such as cross- border investment flows, climate change, rapid land use change and urbanisation, and increasing regionalism.

Understanding this connectivity of the Mekong region requires both local and regional studies.

Challenge Program on Water and Food Mekong Basin Challenge, and the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol

The Australian Mekong Water Resources Program is funding research by the Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) [external website] to improve decision-making processes on hydropower development. The research program commenced in 2011 and will start demonstrating results by 2013.

Through the CPWF and its partner the Mekong Program on Water, Environment and Resilience, Australia has also funded the development and application of a hydropower sustainability assessment protocol in the Greater Mekong Subregion.


heading foldWhy we give aid


Laos is making steady progress in reducing poverty but remains one of the least developed countries, with an estimated two million people living under the poverty line of $1.25 a day.

As a regional neighbour with 60 years of bilateral relations, Australia is well- placed to work with government and other partners to promote opportunities for all in education, and pursue sustainable economic development through trade reform and by helping rural communities access services, finance and markets.

Find out more about why we give aid to Laos


heading foldHow we give aid

Australia has been a key partner in Laos’ development over the last 60 years and is one of the largest bilateral donors to Laos. Our support is guided by the Australia-Laos Development Cooperation Strategy 2009-15, and assists Government of Laos development priorities and programs in education, rural development and trade reform. We work partnership with multilateral development agencies, other donors, the private sector and civil society and through Australian volunteers.

Find out more about how we give aid to Laos

Read the Laos Aid Program Performance Report 2013-14


heading foldProgress Against MDGs

  • Eradicate extreme hunger & poverty
  • Achieve universal primary education
  • Promote gender equality and empower women
  • Reduce child mortality
  • Improve maternal health
  • Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  • Ensure environmental sustainability

Demographic and development statistics for Laos


Last reviewed: 28 October, 2014