Laos Table of Contents
Laotian leaders have increased their visibility among capitalist nations. A small coterie of dedicated government officials, including President Kaysone, have taken advantage of a sympathetic attitude toward Laos within the key international governmental organizations. Similarly, the UN, Australia, and Japan saw an opportunity in the opening of Laos. The Australian-funded Friendship Bridge over the Mekong River at Nong Khai, Thailand, and the generation of 280 foreign investment ventures from twenty-four countries during 1988-92 testify to creative communication in proper channels. Germany and France each supplied approximately US$6 million of aid in 1990.
Australia, Japan, and Sweden have established significant economic aid relationships with Laos. In 1992 the Laos Roundtable for bilateral aid and pledges recorded approximately US$134.62 million for eight bilateral projects led by Australia, Japan, and Sweden. France has also begun to increase its aid to Laos, beginning with projects worth approximately US$900,000 in 1989 and increasing to approximately US$5.2 million in 1993.
Australia has established itself as a special friend, even though not in a "special relationship" with Laos. The Friendship Bridge, authorized in October 1991 and opened in April 1994, is expected to stimulate trade and stable relations between Laos and its neighbors. Australia has sustained a generosity toward Laos that put it in first place among aid-pledging nations in March 1992, even though Australian political interests in the nation are far from vital. In addition to its pledge of US$45 million in aid in 1992, Australia is hosting more than 100 Laotian university students.
Japan is also engaged by the economic needs of Laos providing almost 12 percent of disbursed bilateral aid in 1990. In 1992 Japan made the third largest pledge of bilateral economic assistance at an aid-pledging conference of the UNDP in Geneva. Among the projects Japanese assistance has provided are buses and a bus terminal in Vientiane and health and food production projects. The somewhat modest Japanese investments in Laos were likely raised by Kaysone and Nouhak during their historic state visits to Japan in November 1989 and January 1992, respectively. Kaysone's trip to Tokyo was his first to an industrialized capitalist state, and it preceded by a month a similar visit to France.
Data as of July 1994