Laos is one of the 10 South-East Asian nations preparing to form a single market at the end of 2015. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations Economic Community (AEC) is intended to boost regional growth by creating a common market that will enable the free flow of goods, services and skilled labor â€” including scientists â€” between member states.
As part of negotiations to create the AEC, member states recommended the research areas each plans to focus on.Â Although this work is ongoing, the Lao government is pushing to prioritize renewableÂ energyÂ andÂ agriculture.
Laos remains one of the worldâ€™s least developed countries, as classified by the UN. While it is urbanizing rapidly, two-thirds of people live in rural areas, making agriculture a key element of the economy. The nation is also one of the six countries through which the Mekong River passes, offeringÂ opportunities for hydroelectric power.
The making of MOST
Science development in Laos is driven by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST).
While Silap Boupha, a director at the ministry, insists thatÂ R&DÂ is important to Laosâ€™s overall science and technology strategy, just 0.04 per cent of GDP (gross domestic product) was spent on R&D in 2002 â€” the last time suchÂ dataÂ were collected.
Also, as of 2002, Laos had 37 researchers for every million people, the lowest proportion in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
TheÂ UNESCO Science Report 2010Â found that Lao researchers published just 52 articles in scientific journals â€” the second-lowest proportion per capita of all ASEAN nations.
Nonetheless, MOST reached several landmarks this year. In late June, it staged the countryâ€™s first national science and technology summit, and in August staged the first-ever National Science Week.
On renewable energy, Boupha tellsÂ SciDev.NetÂ the government will develop biomass,Â biofuelÂ and wind energy with a view to deriving 30 per cent of national energy consumption from renewable sources by 2025.
Originally from SciDevNet