New WWF report: Alternative pathways for Lao PDR to secure foreign exchange revenue while safeguarding biodiversity

Posted on 02 November 2023

VIENTIANE, LAOS (2 November 2023) – Sustainably managing and leveraging Lao PDR's immense natural capital could help secure foreign exchange revenue for the country, presents a new WWF report. Pointing to sustainable pathways that contribute to economic prosperity alongside social and environmental benefits, the report spotlights Laos’ potential to pivot towards green growth.

Over the past two decades, Lao PDR has experienced impressive economic growth, primarily driven by the utilization of its natural resources, including the development of hydropower dams, mines, and transport infrastructure. However, this trajectory has come at a high cost, prompting a revaluation of both economic and environmental impacts. Alternative Pathways to Securing Foreign Exchange Revenue for Lao PDR offers a strategic vision for sustainable green growth, delving into ways Laos can grow economically while safeguarding its natural capital. 

“Beyond economic opportunities, this report stresses the significance of maintaining Lao PDR's diverse ecosystems. It points to how sustainable alternatives create win-win scenarios that can help Lao PDR progress in its development agenda and bring significant improvements to livelihoods, while delivering on global environmental commitments. It's a pragmatic guide for decision-makers, emphasizing the coexistence of economic progress and environmental stewardship,” said Lan Mercado, Regional Director, WWF Asia-Pacific.

Emphasizing capital-light public sector focus and investment, the report suggests alternatives to conventional hydropower development. It advocates for a shift away from capital-intensive projects, steering towards sustainable, resilient, and economically viable alternatives, making it a compelling read for those interested in the intersection of sustainable development and smart investments.

Without significant debt relief, Lao PDR faces a challenging economic situation in the short and long term. Alternative pathways that steer away from an overreliance on hydropower and unlock greater economic, environmental and social benefits cannot be overlooked. Our report highlights how with appropriate policy support, the government has the capacity to help reduce barriers to development and drive private-sector led investment in accelerating sustainable growth,” continued Mercado.

Highlights of the report:
Diversification opportunities:
calls for the exploration of varied investment, export, and development avenues, with a special focus on expanding agricultural exports, fostering eco-tourism, and promoting distributed energy solutions.
Private sector engagement: calls for governments, with appropriate policy support, to reduce barriers to development and encourage collaboration with private sector stakeholders, developers, and investors in accelerating the sustainable growth of these sectors to create a sustainable and mutually beneficial economic landscape.

This report not only explores sustainable new avenues for the future of Lao PDR, but also holds significant value for private sector entities, developers, and investors in the region. By embracing the proposed alternative pathways, stakeholders can actively contribute to a more sustainable and economically robust outcome while bringing significant improvements to the livelihoods of a majority of the Lao people, in addition to other social and environmental benefits.

- ENDS -
Notes to Editors:
The report is available for download here. Photos available for third party use here.  

To set up interviews or for other media enquiries contact: Heron Holloway, Head of Communications & Advocacy, WWF Asia-Pacific,
Fishing in Siphandone
© WWF-Greater Mekong
Life along the banks of the Mekong River
© Nicolas Axelrod / Ruom / WWF-Greater Mekong
Report cover: Alternative pathways to securing foreign exchange revenue for Lao PDR
© WWF Greater-Mekong