According to government guidelines on the implementation of the 2019 national socio-economic development plan, which were distributed at a recent meeting of finance and planning officials, the government has already drawn up the new national development vision.
The plan entails the transformation of the economy from the current dependence on natural resources to a knowledge-based economy. In addition, economic growth must be environmentally friendly and sustainable.
In recent decades the economy has undergone rapid growth of more than 6 percent annually. However, current growth is mainly based on the exploitation of natural resources, which Lao policy makers and development partners view as being unsustainable.
Based on government policy documents which Vientiane Times has obtained, the government is well aware of the current economic situation and the need to restructure economic bases to ensure that growth is sustainable.
As part of efforts to ensure economic sustainability, the government has begun to improve the business climate, believing that this strategic move will encourage business operators to invest, operate and expand their businesses.
This means that the private sector and state-run businesses would be the main driver of growth over upcoming decades.
From 1975 to 1896, collective businesses were one of the main pillars of the economic growth base. But in 1986 the government switched to a market-oriented economy after realising the old economic mechanism was ineffective.
In order to improve the business climate, Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith last year ordered ministries and state agencies to make it easier for business owners to start and operate businesses. The goal was to significantly raise Laos’ ranking in the World Bank sponsored ease-of-doing-business index from the current three-digit ranking to a placing of only two digits (i.e. a global ranking of 99 or higher).
In recent years, the ministries in charge of economic affairs have begun to improve the guidelines and procedures that business owners must comply with to obtain permission to operate a business.
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce has posted a list of general businesses that operators must seek permission from the ministry to carry out. If a field of business is not on this list, permission is not required for start up.
The list of controlled general business is accessible at Lao portal trade.com, one of the channels run by the ministry to enable businesspeople to access information on business operation and import and export data.