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Laos’s past is its present

In the landlocked nation, credit is in short supply and few have bank accounts. Foreign lenders, development banks, microfinance institutions and fintechs want to solve its woes – it’s just not clear that Laos wants them back.

Laos Village Bank_780

Laos village banks are making progress, despite facing suspicion

Landlocked and economically tiny, insulated from an outside world it fears and mistrusts, Laos is a very unusual country. Its suspicions of the outsider, which locals wear openly on their faces, are baked in. They recall a century of suffocating French rule, shudder at the memory of American bombs raining down during the Vietnam War, and cast nervous eyes north, to a resurgent and intimidating China.

This fear of the unknown has shaped the country’s economic strategy – such as it is – and helps to explain why, even now, so many Laotian people and businesses struggle to find ways to access credit, get loans and, in many cases, open bank accounts.

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