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Laos zeroes in on indicators delaying country’s investment climate

Jul 31. 2019
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By Vientiane Times
Asia News Network

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The government will take steps to raise Laos’ ranking on the World Bank’s ease of doing business (EDB) index over the rest of this year, in a bid to improve the country’s investment climate.

Minister of Planning and Investment Dr Souphan Keomixay told Vientiane Times recently the government will expedite efforts to tackle the indicators which have not progressed as anticipated.

These include Indicator 4: registering property, Indicator 7: paying taxes, Indicator 9: enforcing contracts, and Indicator 10: resolving insolvency.

However, these indicators are associated with national macroeconomic policy and the enactment of legislation which the government still finds challenging. 

Representatives of government sectors have attended several meetings to discuss indicators 4 and 7, but they still don’t have specific action plans to address the issues.

Concerning indicators 9 and 10, the government set up a committee to supervise these matters in May this year, but it too does not yet have a plan to implement projects relating to these issues.  

At present, the government is in the process of enacting a bankruptcy law which should serve as a legal instrument to handle insolvency related issues. 

Government officials and representatives of the World Bank Group and business met in Vientiane recently to share ideas and get more input to make the draft law more comprehensive.

Meanwhile, progress had been made on Indicator 1: starting a business; Indicator 2: dealing with construction permits; Indicator 3: getting electricity; Indicator 5: getting credit; Indicator 6: protecting minority investors; and Indicator 8: trading across borders, according to Dr Souphan.

Nevertheless, it is essential to enact or revise legislation to further improve indicators 1, 5, 6 and 7.  

In the meantime, economists say the government needs to further fast track the approval process for investment project proposals and ensure that all laws are adequately enforced. 

Without progress in this respect, it will be hard for Laos to accomplish the set goals. Transparency and fair treatment of all investors are also critical to improve the country’s business climate.

In 2017, Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith announced Laos’ ambition to reach a two digit EDB ranking by 2020. 

However, the country slipped 13 places from 141st in 2017 to 154th in 2018, sending a signal that the two-digit target is unlikely to be achieved by 2020.

In June, Mr Thongloun told the National Assembly the government would strive to intensify measures this year and in 2020 to improve the business climate so the ranking would rise and the two digit objective be achieved by 2022.

Despite several accomplishments, the government also needs to pay special attention to facilitating business operations and accelerating business start-up transparently.

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