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Last updated : Nov 2009
Laos Business
Laos Business Overview - TravelPuppy.com
Laos Economy

Laos is among the world’s poorest nations and its mainly agricultural economy functions almost completely at subsistence level. Rice, the primary crop, is grown in many different varieties; other crops include cassava, maize, pulses, fruits, groundnuts, tobacco sugar cane, and coffee. Though not well known outside the region, Laotian coffee is highly rated among connoisseurs and is presently the country’s largest export commodity.

The country has plentiful, though mainly untapped reserves of lead, tin, and zinc, as well as iron ore, timber and coal. Industry mostly involves processing raw materials, mainly food and timber; textiles and basic consumer goods are also produced.

Despite its relatively isolated and peaceful nature, a tourism industry has evolved which is presently Laos’ largest source of income. Development is hindered by a chronic lack of skilled labour and foreign exchange, and the Laotian economy depends a great deal on foreign aid (80% of public sector investment is financed by aid) particularly from Scandinavia, and Japan and more recently Taiwan, Thailand, and Australia.

Economic reforms started in the early 1990s and included a large-scale privatization programme. These reforms initially gained the support of the IMF but failure to meet successive financial goals resulted in a withdrawal of the Fund’s support in 1998. Combined with the regional financial crisis, the economy was in grave trouble by the beginning of 1999 with 100% yearly inflation, a collapsed currency value and a large shortage of domestic and foreign currency.

Since then a recovery has taken place: the economy is currently growing at around 6% yearly while inflation has dropped to a more manageable 25%. Nevertheless, the economic prospects are uncertain. Laos has membership in the Asian Development Bank and the Colombo Plan, which promotes social and economic development in Asia and the Pacific.

Business

Punctuality is appreciated. Lightweight suits, shirt with tie should be worn. All officials don't speak English and some French will be useful. Business cards should have a Laotian translation on the back. The best time to visit Laos is the dry season, from November through April.

Office hours: Monday-Friday 8.00 am - 12.00 pm and 1.30 - 5.30 pm.

Commercial Information

The below organizations can offer advice:

Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, BP 4596, Sihom Road, Ban Haisok, Vientiane (tel/fax: (21) 219-223;
e-mail: ccilcciv@laotel.com)

Ministry of Finance, Luang Prabang Road, Ban Phonxang, Vientiane (tel: (21) 412-401; fax: 412-415).