Thursday, October 26, 2017

Lao prime minister pushing to ease business barriers

By:  Vientiane Times, October 25, 2017

VIENTIANE - Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith told the National Assembly (NA) on Monday the government will take serious action against red tape hampering exports and lessen unnecessary barriers for business.

The PM made the comment responding to questions raised by members of the parliament at the ongoing 4th ordinary session of the NA’s 8th legislature in Vientiane.

The premier described how recent informal meetings and friendly discussions with local and foreign businesspeople helped him recognise the business sector is now currently faced with unnecessary measures and barriers which often slowed business operations including the paperwork for business registration and export facilitation.

“In my recent meetings with several business operators and entrepreneurs, almost all of them had similar difficulties in doing business. For example, they wanted to export handicraft products and other household goods but are faced with time consuming paperwork barriers while the goods are already filled in the container,” he said.

The PM gave the example of a local exporter who was about to ship out household supplies such as mortars and pestles made of softwood for Lao expats abroad but officials asked for certification regarding the Rules of Origin (RoO).

“That exporter went to many ministries to deal with the paperwork but he was told to go to several more ministries concerned. Finally, he gave up on exporting the products that were already loaded in a container,” the premier told the NA’s members.

He also pointed out another case where an exporter spent 6.9 million kip preparing paperwork for a container shipment at a provincial international checkpoint.

“In fact, only 100,000 kip to 200,000 kip is needed to be paid for this preparation,” the PM told members of parliament.

PM Thongloun also declared that his administration would continue to address the unresolved matters as the only solution to boost the business environment and attract more local and foreign investors to Laos.

“From now on, I openly declare that the ministries concerned should quickly address the issues raised by members of the business sector. They should not wait for PM approvals because the relevant laws and regulations already exist,” the PM stressed.

“If any officials refuse to cooperate in providing facilitation for business operators, they will be disciplined,” PM Thongloun said.

The government is trying to upgrade its business friendly status after the latest World Bank annual ratings showed Laos was ranked 139 among 190 economies in the ease of doing business scale.

The rank of Laos deteriorated to 139 in 2016 from 136 in 2015. Ease of Doing Business in Laos averaged 155.11 from 2008 until 2016, reaching an all-time high of 167.00 in 2009 and a record low of 136.00 in 2015, according to the World Bank.

In terms of easing barriers for doing business, the premier called for the ministries involved to be active in improving the ranking.

“Our determination is to promote ease of doing business and lessening the difficulties in business operations and registration,” he said, adding that NA members would also play a crucial role in scrutinising the government’s practical action for this promised mission.

(1 USD =  8,444 LAK)

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