Country Listing

Laos Table of Contents


Bureaucratic Complications

A serious need for skilled technical and economic personnel still hinders the government's dealings with international agencies and businesspeople. Thousands of the most trained and enterprising citizens fled the country after 1975. A related problem for foreign policy makers is the relative lack of young university graduates who are fluent in English and familiar with international economics. The several thousand Laotian students sent between 1975 and the late 1980s to the Soviet Union and its East European allies for several years of training often have returned without tangible or relevant skills. The hundreds of training years provided in the Soviet Union did not produce a solid base of junior diplomatic officers intellectually prepared to move easily among UN economic development agencies or in Western state capitals. In the 1990s, education in Western states has become essential for advancement. As the horizon broadened for Laotian diplomats and businesspersons, elite families in Laos sought training in United States or Australian universities. Thailand is also willing to pick up some of the demand for educational opportunity, and other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN--see Glossary) states are also a potential source for scholarships.

Recruitment of a professional foreign service is no easier in these circumstances. Moreover, party experience seems to count more heavily than sophistication in language and diplomatic training, even in the realm of foreign relations.

Data as of July 1994