Laos - Country Commercial Guide
Market Challenges
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Currently, commercial law and the commercial court system in Laos are developing and lack transparency.  Sanctity of contracts is not well understood in Laos and concessions, or property rights granted by the government, are liable to overlap or conflict with other claims.

Customs procedures are improving but remain opaque. Customs clearance speed has improved markedly in recent years through the streamlining of processes such as using electronic systems to enhance customs administration and inspections for imports and exports.  As a result, the customs clearance processing time dropped from an average of 11 hours in 2012 to nine hours in 2020.

Despite government efforts to establish a “one stop service” for business registration and licensing, procedures for investment are cumbersome and approvals often fail to occur within stated times or rules.

Human resources are underdeveloped in Laos, and employers frequently face difficulty in finding and retaining qualified employees. The market for skilled and unskilled workers is tight, though some provinces with larger populations, such as Savannakhet, can support manufacturing for export.

Tax administration is consistently cited as one of the largest barriers to commerce in Laos, in surveys of small and medium enterprises.

The government is working to address corruption, which is still a major problem that seriously hampers the efficient operation of the Lao economy and society.  Competitors from countries without legal or moral sanctions against corrupt practices have long enjoyed an advantage in securing government approvals and concessions. Bribes and payoffs are an accepted part of Lao business culture.