Back in Lao PDR With Mixed Feelings
By Daniel Siegfried
It was more than 2.5 years since our last trip to Lao PDR, so we were quite nervous and had to triple check our travel documents before we set off from Chiang Mai. We felt exhilarated to go back in the country which is almost a second home to us. We were also excited to finally reconnect with our partners and meet with them face-to-face.
But shortly after we crossed the border, we realised that something was quite different from the past: the prices for almost everything had increased by 20 to 50% while the Laotian currency has been devaluating against the USD and Thai Baht by more than 50%, making imports almost unaffordable. Most petrol stations were closed or they had a few hundred meters long queues in front of them. It became obvious that the country is facing a huge economic crisis. The combination of high external debt, the prolonged economic impact of COVID-19 and worldwide inflation caused by the war in Ukraine pushed the country to the brink. Now the people are struggling to make ends meet.
The prices for almost everything had increased by 20 to 50% while the Laotian currency has been devaluating against the USD and Thai Baht by more than 50%, making imports almost unaffordable.
The impact on children and youth is devastating. Many students are dropping out of school in order to seek unskilled and often dangerous work in neighbouring Thailand. We work closely with our schools and provide scholarships to prevent this. Also our partners are supporting vulnerable youth to upskill them so that they have better and safer job opportunities in the country.