How Can National Competitiveness of Less Developed Countries be Enhanced? : A Case Study of Laos
The current literature focuses primarily on the national competitiveness of developed or developing economies. However, minimal research exists on understanding the national competitiveness of less developed countries (LDCs) whose strengths in factor endowments, government institutions and the extent of global integration are not the same as those of developed or developing countries. This study aims to fill this research gap by exploring factors contributing to the competitiveness of Laos. Laos is a small, poor and land-locked country in Southeast Asia with rich natural resources. To achieve the study objectives, 20 semi-structured interviews were conducted with senior government officials, industrial representatives, professors and NGOs in Laos. The findings suggest three key factors are critical for enhancing Lao competitiveness: factor endowments, the role of government, and global integration. Laos‘ factor endowments include hydropower, mining, agriculture, garment and textile industries, and services. Laos is interacting more with the global economy as it gets set to embrace membership of the World Trade Organisation after approximately 15 years of membership of ASEAN. The government is playing a critical role by developing Lao factor endowments and developing policies required for global integration. However, the country faces challenges of value addition to the existing natural resources, developing and leveraging human capital, and further improvement in rules and regulations.