PM Sisoulith attends talks with Vietnamese business leaders
By Times Reporters
24 October 2016

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has promised that the Lao government will lend a sympathetic ear to Vietnamese investors regarding the difficulties faced while doing business in Laos.

The prime minister made the commitment on Friday while addressing a dialogue meeting with the Vietnamese business community in Laos.

Thongloun said his presence at the meeting along with more than half of the Lao cabinet members demonstrated the importance they attached to Vietnamese investors and their drive to learn about the problems hindering Vietnamese firms’ operations, so that timely solutions could be found.

The most common complaints have centred on the procedures involved in granting investment licences; land use and ground clearance policies; the import and export of goods and temporary import and re-export services; taxation, related fees and tax refunds; employees and visas for labourers and the business environment.

Thongloun noted that after 15 years, Vietnam has become the third-largest foreign investor in Laos, which he said indicated the close ties between the two countries in all fields.

“To ease these problems, we pledge to instruct officials in ministries and other bodies to work with Vietnamese firms to seek solutions to specific issues,” he said.

Thongloun called on Vietnamese investors to cooperate with Laos in improving the working mechanisms and management capacity.

He told potential investors that Laos had stopped granting concessions for rubber tree plantations and licences for new mining operations, citing the low market price of rubber, shortage of labourers and land and environmental protection as among the reasons for the suspensions. 

He also said the Lao government encouraged investors from all countries to engage in fair competition and urged them to strictly comply with the country’s laws.

During the dialogue, senior ministry officials replied to queries posed by Vietnamese businesses.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Somdy Douangdy vowed to address the slow refund of Value Added Tax payments, while Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Baykham Khattiya said the ministry would consider requests by certain foreign-funded projects for more manual labourers than the 10 per cent cap currently imposed.

As of the end of September 2016, Vietnam had 266 licensed projects in Laos, with total registered capital of $5.1 billion, an increase of 1.3 times and 1.26 times respectively compared to the 2011 figures.

Vietnamese-operated projects are located in 16 out of Laos’ 18 provinces, with many having contributed significantly to local socio-economic development.

The Vietnamese News Agency had reported recently that these projects contributed $240-260 million to Laos’ national budget each year and created jobs for 35,000 labourers. These figures are expected to rise to $350-400 million and 45,000 labourers, respectively, in 2017 and continue to increase in the future.

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