Laos: Investment climate improvements intensifying, deputy minister says
The government has intensified efforts to improve the business climate in an attempt to promote greater investment and drive growth in the domestic economy.
The recently established Central Investment Promotion and Management Committee has been holding regular meetings to discuss issues to better facilitate investment, Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment Dr Kikeo Chanthabouly told members of the National Assembly (NA) recently.
The committee was established in line with the amended Investment Promotion Law, which was passed by the NA in November last year.
The law stipulates the conditions for the establishment of central and provincial committees in charge of investment promotion and management.
The Central Investment Promotion and Management Committee has been active and held several meetings, he told a three-day meeting between the NA’s Planning, Finance and Auditing Committee and government sectors in charge of economic affairs.
Dr Kikeo admitted that provinces had been slower in establishing their provincial investment promotion and management committees.
The delays had come despite instructions having been issued directing the provinces to form such committees to facilitate investment.
According to the law, the central committee must be chaired by a Deputy Prime Minister and hold at least two meetings a month.
The provincial or capital committee must be presided over by a provincial governor or the Mayor of Vientiane and hold at least two meetings a month.
Requirements to form such committees in the amended law came after reports emerged that many investment proposals had been stuck in red tape and took too long to get approval due to various barriers.
Although a one-stop service was introduced some time ago, the mechanism was not yet functioning fully and correctly, Dr Kikeo said.
The one-stop service is being implement ed. But it might be that officials [from different departments] have been used to doing their jobs separately and are finding it challenging to work in closer cooperation, he told the meeting.
Assembly members noted that time-consuming processes to approve investment proposals had long been a chronic issue and a matter that the government needed to address.
They asked the government to reshuffle those officials in charge of investment approvals who failed to do their jobs properly, including in provincial departments, towards achieving progress and improvement in Laos’ ease-of-doing-business rankings.
In 2015, Laos was ranked 134th for ease of doing business out of 189 countries globally.
The facilitation of business is vital in attracting significantly more private investment to pursue Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, which is targeted at 7 percent for 2018 as stipulated in development plans.
In 2018, the government is hoping for as much as 19,720 billion kip in investment capital from both domestic and foreign investors (accounting for 46.8 percent of GDP), an increase on the 14,474 billion kip expected in 2017.
Minister of Planning and Investment Dr Souphanh Keomixay told the government meeting recently that improving governance and streamlining procedures in a transparent and just manner to provide better public services were among the main focus areas to raise the nation’s attractiveness as a destination for quality domestic and international investments.