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Government Organizations and Agencies

The Foreign Investment Management Committee (FIMC)

The FIMC is designed to serve as a “one-stop” centre for potential investors in the Lao People's Democratic Republic. The FIMC performs several duties on behalf of investors from the application stage to actual operations, such as assisting foreign investors, granting investment licenses, and monitoring foreign investment. Also included in its duties are the screening of investment applications, coordinating with other concerned ministries and provincial authorities, compiling statistics, and promoting investment in the country.

Contact Address:
Luang Prabang Road, Ban Sithantay, Sikhottabong District, Vientiane
Tel: (856) 21 414925 Fax: (856) 21 215491

Ministry of Commerce and Tourism


The Ministry of Commerce and Tourism is responsible for administering domestic and foreign trade policy and supervising trade activities. It also promotes Lao products and commodities in domestic and international markets, organizes trade fairs, and handles the registration of enterprises.
The Ministry of Commerce has a provincial trade service in each province along with district a trade office. The main duties of these provincial services and district offices are to implement trade policy and to manage and promote trade activities.

Contact Address:
Phonxay Road, P.O. Box 4107, Vientiane
Tel: (856) 21 412014 Fax: (856) 21 412434

Ministry of Finance (Customs Department)

The Customs Department is responsible for import-export tariff and customs matters.

Contact Address:
Thatluang Rd, Ban Phonxay, Xiansettha District, Vientiane
P.O.Box 46, Tel: (856) 21 412409 Fax: (856) 21 412250

Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts

Contact Address:
Nongbone Road, Ban Xiangyeune, Chanthabouly District, Vientiane, P.O. Box 4708
Tel: (856) 21 413002 Fax: (856) 21 414351

Chamber of Commerce and Industry Associations

Established in 1989 under the guidance of the Ministry of Commerce and Tourism, the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry aims to enhance co-operation among traders, farmers and manufacturers of major export or import products. Under the realm of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry are nine trade associations:
-The Lao People's Democratic Republic Coffee Export Association
-The Lao People's Democratic Republic Handicraft Group
-The Lao People's Democratic Republic Construction Material Group
-The Lao People's Democratic Republic Food Group
-The Lao People's Democratic Republic Garment and Textile Group
-The Lao People's Democratic Republic Vehicle and Spare Parts Group
-The Lao People's Democratic Republic Hotel Group
-The Lao People's Democratic Republic Construction Group
-The Lao People's Democratic Republic Petroleum Group
Although each trade association is a separate entity with regulations and practices of its own, it is a member of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which acts as a centre of coordination among and between associations, as well as with the government. Coordination with the government usually entails providing input on the rules and regulations governing the business sector.
Traders, farmers, or manufacturers, both local and foreign, can apply for membership directly with the related trade association. Members of the trade associations are automatically members of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The main objectives of the trade associations are to enhance cooperation among members in the areas of production, trade and export/import. This is achieved through consolidating the supply of export products to increase bargaining power in the world market and prevent price-cutting, consolidating demand for imports to lessen processing costs and increase bargaining power; and providing members with the information on the world market situation, price trends, new technology, etc.

Consulting, Accounting, & Law Firms

This section provides contact information for an assortment of consulting, accounting, and legal firms in Lao People's Democratic Republic. However, the following information does not imply endorsement or recommendation.

Consulting/accounting firms

International standard consulting and accounting firms are available in the Lao People's Democratic Republic, but these are essentially located in Vientiane.

Price Waterhouse Coopers
Unit 1, Fourth Floor
Vientiane Commercial Building
33 Lane Xiang Avenue P.O. Box 7003 Vientiane
Tel: (856 21) 222 718 Fax: (856 21) 222 723
E-mail: pwc-laos@loxinfo.co.th 
Services provided:
Audit, assurance, and business advisory,
financial advisory, global tax services,
global human resource solutions,
management consulting
KPMG
Mark Jerome, Country Manager
Km. 2 Luang Prabang Rd P.O. Box 6978
Vientiane
Tel: (856 21) 219 491-3
Fax: (856 21) 219 490
E-mail: kpmglaom@loxinfo.co.th 
Services provided
Assurance, tax and legal, consulting
financial advisory
Vientiane International Consultants
234 Samsenthai Road
Vientiane
Tel: (856-21) 214-182
Fax: (856-21) 215-797
E-mail: vic@laonet.net ; vic@pan-laos.net
 

Law firms

Commercial law is a rather recent addition to the Lao legal system. One of the major problems for businesses is that few of the Lao laws have been translated into English and none has been officially translated.
Dirksen, Flipse, Doran, and Lee
Mekong Commerce Building #1
P.O. Box 2920
Luang Prabang Road, Vientiane
Tel: (856) 21 2169279
Fax: (856) 21 216919
E-mail: dfdllaos@loxinfo.co.th 
Services provided 
Legal services in investment contacts,
licensing negotiations with government
and joint venture partners land purchasing,
leasing and financing
KMPG Lao Ltd.
Luangprabang Rd.
Ban Khouta Thong
P.O. Box 6978
Vientiane
Tel: (856-21) 222-042; 219-491
Fax: (856-21) 219-490
Mr. Khamphay Bothapanith
106 Ban Wat Nak, Sisattanak District
Vientiane
Tel: (856-21) 312-397
Mr. Sabh Phommarath
191, Unit 17, Nongbouathong Tai
Vientiane
Tel: (856-21) 222-346

Financial Institutions

The Central Bank of the Lao People's Democratic Republic is responsible for all the financial institutions in the country. It has 34 commercial banks and branches under its responsibility. In mid-1999, eight state-owned commercial banks were merged into four banks in order to strengthen the financial sector. At present, the four state-owned banks are:
• The Banque pour le Commerce Exterieur Lao Ltd. (BCEL), the foreign trade bank, based in Vientiane.
• Lane Xang Bank Ltd., a state-owned commercial bank, based in Luang Prabang. It is the result of a merger of 3 state-owned banks: Setthathirath Bank, Aroun Mai Bank and Lane Xang Bank.
• Lao May Bank Ltd., a state-owned commercial bank based in Savannakhet. Three stateowned banks, Nakhoneluang Bank, Lao May Bank, and Phak Tai Bank, were merged into one.
• The Agricultural Promotion Bank, based in Vientiane.
There are other privately owned commercial banks which includes three joint venture banks, Thai bank branches, one foreign bank, and one representative office: 

Joint venture banks
• Joint Development Bank: a joint venture between Thailand (70 percent) and the Lao People's Democratic Republic (30 percent)
• Vientiane Commercial Bank: a joint venture between Australia, Taiwan and Thailand (75 percent) along with the Lao People's Democratic Republic (25 percent)
• Lao-Viet Bank: a joint venture between BCEL of the Lao People's Democratic Republic and the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam

Thai bank branches
• Bank of Ayuddhya Public Company Limited
• Bangkok Bank Public Company Limited
• Krung Thai Bank Public Company Limited
• Siam Commercial Bank Public Company Limited
• Thai Farmers Bank Public Company Limited
• Thai Military Bank Public Company Limited

Foreign bank branches
• Public Bank Berhard Public Company Limited (Malaysia)

Representative offices
• Standard Chartered Bank (UK)
Another important institution in the financial sector is the Mekong Project Development Facility (MPDF), which is an arm of the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation. MPDF was established in 1997 and has offices in Vientiane and Vietnam. MPDF provides companies with local and international assistance with financial engineering and business development. While it does not actually lend financing, it helps small and medium size firms (SMEs) with project development to access finance. For more information contact:

Mekong Project Development Facility
Nehru Road, Pathou Xay
P.O. Box 9690 Vientiane
Tel: (856-21) 450-017
Fax: (856-21) 450-020

Also of note is that an Overseas Private Investment Cooperation (OPIC) agreement was signed in 1996, and an agreement with the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) in 1998.

Transportation

The Lao People's Democratic Republic is strategically located to become the land transportation hub of South-East Asia, because it is the only country in the region that borders five countries. Unfortunately, the mountainous terrain is a hindrance to speedily developing the country's transportation infrastructure, and many of the mountainous areas are difficult and many of the mountainous areas are difficult to reach during the five-month rainy season (May-September). Infrastructure within the Lao People's Democratic Republic is inadequate at the moment but improving each year, especially the highway network.
There are currently about 22,000 kilometres of roadways in the country, less than half of which are paved, and many of which are in poor repair. Efforts to upgrade and extend the national road network are supported by bilateral or multilateral assistance funds such as the Japanese Government and the Asian Development Bank.
A summary of the six major routes is as follows:
Highway Route 1: Runs from the Chinese-Lao border through Luang Prabang to Route 6 at Huaphanh
Highway Route 6: Connects with Route 1 in Huaphanh.
Highway Route 13: The main artery connecting the southern part of the country to the north. Runs from the Lao-Cambodian border in Champassak, through Vientiane and Luang Prabang, and connects to Oudomsay.
Highway Route 7: Starts from Route 13 in Luang Prabang, through Xieng Khouang, to the Lao- Vietnamese border.
Highway Route 8: Begins in Bolikhamxay at Route 13 and runs to the Lao-Vietnamese border.
Highway Route 9: Runs from Savannakhet and then joins Route 13 to the Lao-Vietnamese border. Route 9 serves as the Lao People's Democratic Republic main link to the sea via Vietnam's Danang port.
A significant undertaking for the GMS that stands to offer significant benefits to the Lao People's Democratic Republic is the East-West Corridor. This Asia Development Bank initiative entails the development of a 1,500 kilometre road link from Danang in Vietnam, through Savannakhet in southern Lao People's Democratic Republic, and extending all the way via Thailand to Mawlamyine and Myamaddy in Myanmar.
Nineteen other major road and bridge projects are ongoing throughout the country, with many of them expected to be complete in the next few years. An important recent addition to the road infrastructure is the new bridge across the Mekong River at Pakse, which will facilitate the flow of goods and people between Thailand and Vietnam. A second international bridge across the Mekong River at Savannakhet (joining with Thailand's Mukdaharn Province) is underway and scheduled for completion in 2003. This bridge will complement the first international bridge (completed in 1994) between Vientiane and Thailand's Nong Khai Province.

Water transportation

The waterway system consists of 4,587 kilometres of major rivers, notably the Mekong River and its tributaries. The Mekong River itself is over 1,800 kilometres and serves as the country's lifeblood for transportation, food, irrigation, and other vital needs. Smaller vessels can navigate an additional 2,897 kilometres of waterways.
In April 2000, the Lao People's Democratic Republic joined Myanmar, Thailand, and China in signing the Upper Lancang-Mekong River Commercial Navigation Agreement, which takes effect in mid-2001 and aims to facilitate the transportation of goods along the Mekong River.

Air transportation

The Lao People's Democratic Republic has 14 airports, but most of them are rather small. The country's only international airport, Wattay, is located in Vientiane and is only a few minutes from the heart of the city. The airport in Luang Prabang is slated to become an international airport, but it is not offering international flights as of yet. International flights from Thailand, China, Vietnam, and other countries arrive and depart daily to and from Wattay, but several of the inter-provincial flights are only a couple of times a week and the schedules change frequently without prior notification.

Railways

As for railroads, the Lao People's Democratic Republic is one of the rare countries without any rail system. The mountainous terrain has prevented the establishment of a railroad, but the issue of a rail system is raised occasionally in the context of linking southwest China with Thailand and even Vietnam.

Telecommunications

Telephone service to the general public is limited but improving. In 1993, the country installed a modern, but limited, telecommunications system that continues to develop through the Telecommunications Master Plan (1987-2010). Assistance from the World Bank and foreign donors is helping to expand the system gradually throughout the country. The system utilizes digital technology and satellites, but even by the end of the 5th phase of the Master Plan the country will still only have 340,000 telephone lines (an average of five lines per 100 people).

Other Infrastructure

Electricity & Energy

Only about 20 percent of the population has access to electricity despite the country's vast potential for hydropower. While the electricity supply in Vientiane is fairly regular, other parts of the country have a limited number of hours per day in which electricity is available, and many other areas are without electricity altogether.
The Lao People's Democratic Republic has thirteen tributaries that join the Mekong River and cover 1,500 kilometres. These provide the country with a total electricity generating capacity of not less than 17,000 megawatts. By 2009, the plan is to have over 7,000 MW of installed capacity. The Lao People's Democratic Republic is poised to become the focal point for an integrated regional power grid over the coming decade, and it already has a memorandum of understanding with Thailand for the sale of 1,500 MW of energy per year and has entered into talks with Cambodia as well.
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