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.
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.
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.
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.