Doing Business in Lao PDR

Business and Economic Overview

Laos is the 131st largest export economy in the world and the 115th most complex economy according to the Economic Complexity Index (ECI).

The top exports of Laos are Copper Ore ($557m), Rubber ($193m), Gold ($155m), Rough Wood ($137m) and Non-Knit Men’s Suits ($86.4m). Its top imports are Broadcasting Equipment ($134m), Delivery Trucks ($94.6m), Iron Structures ($90.2m), Other Steel Bars ($87.8m) and Hydraulic Turbines ($85.6m).

The top export destinations of Laos are China ($1.1b), India ($242m), Japan ($146m), the United States ($90.6m) and Germany ($89.5m). The top import origins are Chine ($1.34b), Japan ($122m), South Korea ($92.1m), Austria ($54.4m) and the Czech Republic ($41.3m).

Laos ranks 154th in ease of doing business, 110th on index of economic freedom 2019 and 124th on global index of economic openness.

Companies face a high risk of corruption when acquiring permits, licenses or other public services.  Extra payments are sometimes exchanged, and bribes are given to approve or expedite applications in public utilities. Wages of government officials are very low, which can tempt some to engage in corruption. The public service is highly politicised, and the recruitment of administrative personnel is tainted by favouritism and political backing. Even if civil servants are adequately capable, they are unlikely to take any decisions that would go against political priorities.

Complying with government regulations can be challenging as they are often vague and even conflicting. The realities of doing business often fail to correspond with existing legislation and regulations because of weak implementation and enforcement of the law.

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