At the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party’s (LPRP) 11th national congress in January 2021, Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith succeeded Bounnhang Vorachit as party general secretary. Vice President Phankham Viphavanh leapfrogged two rivals to become the second most powerful person in the party hierarchy. There was also a major cleanout lower down the central committee.

In 2019, Laos’s economic transformation had started to slow, partly due to slowed growth in agriculture and power generation. Laos’s major structural weaknesses – its fiscal deficit, public debt, current account deficit and dwindling foreign reserves – have been severely exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The LPRP adopted a reduced growth target for 2021-25, focusing on the stability, quality and sustainability of economic growth. The development of a legal framework remained focused on strengthening state governance rather than political liberalization or human rights. Through the government’s decisive action, Laos was largely spared the health impacts of COVID-19.

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