The Lao People's Democratic Republic made cautious progress during 2004. The socialist government does not tolerate dissent and there is continuing resistance by minorities, but generally, the year saw increased stability and greater confidence that the country is moving forward. Its economy continues to improve, albeit from a very low base. Some ambitious projects, particularly in hydroelectricity and mining, have commenced. The government is slowly building better international links within its region. However, the international community remains concerned about the lack of transparency in politics and administration, and Laos has not succeeded in normalizing trade relations with the United States.

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