The Lao government plans to set up an electronic system that will enable businesspeople to obtain a business and trade licence online.
Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce, Khemmani Pholsena, yesterday presided over a meeting to consider and adopt a roadmap to simplify and harmonise trade services in Laos, as part of efforts to facilitate trade and improve the business and investment climate.
Speaking at the opening of the meeting, Khemmani said such a system would enable businesspeople to obtain import and export permission easier via the Internet, which would significantly improve the business and investment climate in Laos.
At present, people who need to import and export vehicles, rice, cement and steel must request permission from the authorities. They then have to see trade officials before they can obtain a business licence.
The new system will make the business licence and import and export approval process transparent and ensure the effective collection and supply of trade data. This information is essential for policymakers to develop appropriate business policies and to help businesspeople make sound plans.
Some business operators complain that it is not easy to obtain a business licence and to get import and export permission. They say they have to give officials a financial incentive so they can get their paperwork processed faster. Businesspeople said corruption is one of the main barriers to doing business in Laos.
They urged the sectors concerned to address the problem before the Asean Economic Community comes into being at the end of 2015, otherwise Laos will be at disadvantage when competing with other countries in the region.
Khemmani said the government views the improvement of trade services as a top priority, adding that Laos has approved a trade facilitation strategy for the period 2011 to 2015. The strategy requires the use of information technology systems to address trade barriers.
The improvement of import and export procedures is also a requirement of the World Trade Organisation. Laos became a member of the global trading body in February this year.
The government considers exports to be a driving force of economic growth, as domestic consumption is very limited. The government is encouraging foreign investment in agriculture so that Laos can produce food for export to world markets.
The government is also considering engaging the private sector as the main engine of economic growth so it is working to improve the business climate, aiming to stimulate investment and create jobs so that more Lao people can rise above poverty.
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