Laos’ Investment Outlook for 2018

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By: Vasundhara Rastogi

ASEAN Briefing-Laos Investment Outlook for 2018 (002)

Landlocked by Myanmar, Cambodia, China, Thailand, and Vietnam, Laos is among the poorest economies of the world. Yet, in terms of gross domestic product (GDP), the economy continues to soar. Over the last decade, Laos has sustained an average growth rate of 7.8 percent, relatively higher than its neighboring countries.


The main source of its revenue is its huge reserves of natural resources including agriculture and forestry products, minerals such as gold, copper, zinc, and lead, and hydro-electric potential. Mining and hydropower are its biggest foreign currency generating sectors and account for 80 percent of its total FDI, with China, Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, France, and Japan being the leading source. The economy has benefited greatly from the foreign direct investment in its hydropower dams along the Mekong River. As of May 2016, China invested over US$6.7 billion in 760 projects in Laos, covering a wide range of sectors from energy and minerals industry to agricultural and service sector.

Besides, agriculture is the mainstay of the economy. It employees over 75 percent of the population and contributes approximately 29 percent of GDP. Further, the country is also investing heavily in its services sector with two new component – banking and tourism – building huge potential for foreign investment in the country.

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The Guide to Employment Permits for Foreign Workers in Laos

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By Dezan Shira & Associates
Editor: Vasundhara Rastogi

Laos, officially Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), issues several types of work visas to foreigners planning to work in the country, based on the type of employment and projects assumed by them. Some of these are given below:

  • Expert Visa (E-B2) – for foreign workers employed in international organizations or non-government organizations;
  • Investor Visa (NI-B2) – for foreign nationals investing in an enterprise registered in Laos; and
  • Labor Visa (LA-B2) – for foreign nationals working in Laos on a fixed employment contract.

In this article, we briefly discuss the two business visas types – NI-B2 and LA-B2 – , and the rules and procedures for expatriates planning to work in Laos.

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Import and Export Procedures in Laos – Best Practices

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By Bradley Dunseith


Officially the Lao Peoples’ Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), landlocked Laos borders China, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. In 2015, Laos exported US$3.81 billion worth of goods and imported US$6.54 billion. Laos’ main export destinations include Thailand, China, Vietnam, India, and Japan. Laos’ top import sources include Thailand, China, Vietnam, South Korea, and Japan. In this article we explain best practices for importing into and exporting out of Laos.

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ASEAN Growth to Remain Resilient Despite Regional Vulnerabilities

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By Bradley Dunseith

In April, 2017, the World Bank (WB) released their biannual East Asia and Pacific Economic Update, entitled, “Sustaining Resilience.” As the title suggests, the WB anticipates growth in East Asia and Pacific, including ASEAN states, to remain resilient despite risks from global and regional vulnerabilities. In this article, we go through “Sustaining Resilience” and summarize the WB’s forecast for developing ASEAN states generally as well as their country specific predictions for economic growth.

About the report

The WB predicts that large developing economies will continue to grow moderately while smaller regional economies will benefit from the rapid growth of their neighbors as well as high commodity prices. The WB marked that poverty has continued to decline in most countries and will continue to fall with sustained growth and rising labor incomes. However, the WB report noted that global policy uncertainties means that countries must address macroeconomic vulnerabilities so as to prepare for external shocks to the economy. External shocks – such as changes in US policy – disproportionately affect smaller countries; as such, the WB report strongly recommends small economics to improve the efficiency of their public spending in preparation of needed structural changes.

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ASEAN Regulatory Brief: Malaysia Cabotage Policy, Philippines Tax Reform, and Laos Land Concessions

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MALAYSIA: Sarawak, Sabah and Labuan exempted from cabotage policy

With effect from June 1, 2017 the states of Sarawak and Sabah as well as the Federal Territory of Labuan will be exempted from the cabotage policy. As per the erstwhile policy, only Malaysia-flagged ships were permitted to transport cargo from Peninsular Malaysia to these three territories and vice versa. As a result foreign vessels carrying freight bound for the three territories had to stop at the port of Klang in Selangor state in Peninsular Malaysia in order to transfer the goods to domestic ships for onward shipment to Sarawak, Sabah and Labuan.

The Malaysian transport ministry has announced that the exemption will however not apply to freight transport between Labuan and the states of Sarawak and Sabah. While the domestic shipping industry has protested against the government’s move to end the cabotage policy, it has been welcomed by the local administrations. It is believed that the policy had led to higher prices of commodities and as a result a higher cost of living in the three territories. Observers have stated that now it will be possible to ship goods directly to Sarawak, Sabah and Labuan without having to transfer at a Peninsular Malaysian port.

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ASEAN Regulatory Brief: Singapore Anti-Bribery Standard, Thailand E-Work Permits, and Laos Sea Access

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Singapore: ISO 37001 Anti-Bribery Systems Management Standard adopted

In order to enable Singapore-registered companies to implement and manage anti-bribery best practices, the city-state recently adopted the ISO 37001 Anti-Bribery Systems Management Standard. The Standard is being launched jointly by SPRING Singapore, an agency under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and Singapore’s Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB). The two organisations released a joint statement saying ISO 37001 “is based on internationally recognized good practices [and] provides guidelines to help Singapore companies strengthen their anti-bribery compliance systems and processes [to] ensure compliance with anti-bribery laws.”

An accreditation mechanism for certification bodies is expected to be rolled out by the end of 2017. The majority of people prosecuted for bribery and corruption in Singapore in 2016 were private sector employees. According to the CPIB, 808 corruption complaints were filed in 2016, down from 877 complaints filled in the previous year.

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ASEAN Market Watch: Philippines FDI Surge, Malaysia Construction Sector, and Laos Tourism Industry

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The Philippines: Fresh FDI surge registered

According to figures released by the Philippines’ central bank, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the country registered US$685 million in fresh Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in January, a 13.2% increase from US$605 million registered over the same period in the previous year. The foreign capital received in January is also the highest monthly FDI inflow since a US$744 million FDI inflow in November 2016. The central bank has stated that the fresh FDI surge comes as investors remain optimistic on the growth potential of the country’s economy, which is backed by strong macroeconomic fundamentals.    

The Philippines economy, with an upwardly adjusted 6.9% growth rate, was one of the fastest growing markets in Asia in 2016. Industry watchers and economists have credited the country’s growth successes to large foreign currency reserves and a sound banking system. According to the central bank, the top sources of FDI at the beginning of the year were Germany, Singapore, Hong Kong, the United States, and Japan. Among the largest recipients of foreign capital are electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply; construction; wholesale and retail trade; administrative and support service; and financial and insurance services sectors. The central bank expects FDI to reach at least US$7 billion by the end of this year.

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An Introduction to Doing Business in ASEAN 2017

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By: Dezan Shira & Associates

An Introduction to Doing Business in ASEAN 2017, the latest publication from Dezan Shira & Associates, is out now and available for complimentary download through the Asia Briefing Publication Store.

What happens in and around ASEAN is one of the key factors increasingly impacting upon China and India trade flows, as well as the rest of Asia. While the ASEAN trade bloc has been in existence since 1967, it has really shown its importance in trade and commercial business flows since the rise of China over the past three decades, and through its response to China’s changing domestic demographics. Those changes – an aging and increasingly consumer demanding China – have been skillfully adapted by ASEAN to place the future of global manufacturing, and where it takes place, firmly within its own orbit.

Simply put, free trade agreements that came into effect with China and India in 2010 changed the face of Asian trade and production, and are continuing to do so. For example, bilateral trade figures between China and ASEAN’s Big Five of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand have multiplied by factors of 500 percent since the agreement was signed. With the smaller ASEAN nations of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam coming into line with their own compliance of ASEAN customs duty reductions at the end of 2015, the entire bloc offers close to zero import-export tariffs for much of emerging Asia, including the giant markets of China and India, possessing some 500 million middle class consumers between them. ASEAN therefore represents a massive trade bloc possessing free trade agreements of global strategic importance. The question of accessing ASEAN for the benefit of North American, European and other global purchasing and manufacturing executives is a key function of this report.

An Introduction to Doing Business in ASEAN introduces the fundamentals of investing in the 10-nation ASEAN bloc, concentrating on economics, trade, corporate establishment and taxation. We also include the latest development news in our “Important Updates” section for each country, with the intent to provide an executive assessment of the varying component parts of ASEAN, assessing each member state and providing the most up-to-date economic and demographic data on each. Additional research and commentary on ASEAN’s relationships with China, India and Australia is also provided.


  • An introduction to ASEAN 
  • Country profiles
  • Case studies: ASEAN as a platform for Asian growth

Our practice, Dezan Shira & Associates, has taken giant steps into the ASEAN market through the establishment of offices throughout the region, in addition to the creation of a unique alliance of firms. That, coupled with our existing long experience of handling foreign investment into China and India, puts us in a unique position of truly understanding how Asia works and how to maximize its free trade benefits.


Asia Briefing Ltd. is a subsidiary of Dezan Shira & Associates. Dezan Shira is a specialist foreign direct investment practice, providing corporate establishment, business advisory, tax advisory and compliance, accounting, payroll, due diligence and financial review services to multinationals investing in China, Hong Kong, India, Vietnam, Singapore and the rest of ASEAN. For further information, please email or visit

Stay up to date with the latest business and investment trends in Asia by subscribing to our complimentary update service featuring news, commentary and regulatory insight.


Related-Reading-Asean Book Title

dsa brochureDezan Shira & Associates Brochure
Dezan Shira & Associates is a pan-Asia, multi-disciplinary professional services firm, providing legal, tax and operational advisory to international corporate investors. Operational throughout China, ASEAN and India, our mission is to guide foreign companies through Asia’s complex regulatory environment and assist them with all aspects of establishing, maintaining and growing their business operations in the region. This brochure provides an overview of the services and expertise Dezan Shira & Associates can provide.

An Introduction to Doing Business in ASEAN 2017
An Introduction to Doing Business in ASEAN 2017 introduces the fundamentals of investing in the 10-nation ASEAN bloc, concentrating on economics, trade, corporate establishment, and taxation. We also include the latest development news for each country, with the intent to provide an executive assessment of the varying component parts of ASEAN, assessing each member state and providing the most up-to-date economic and demographic data on each.

Human Resources in ASEANHuman Resources in ASEAN
In this issue of ASEAN Briefing, we discuss the prevailing structure of ASEAN’s labor markets and outline key considerations regarding wages and compliance at all levels of the value chain. We highlight comparative sentiment on labor markets within the region, showcase differences in cost and compliance between markets, and provide insight on the state of statutory social insurance obligations throughout the bloc. 

ASEAN Regulatory Brief: Building Fines in Myanmar, Air Cargo Subsidies in Indonesia, and Quality Inspection in Laos

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Myanmar: Hefty Fines for flouting building regulations

From April 1, building owners in Mandalay will face hefty fines if their buildings violate government regulations or have been constructed without a valid permit. As per the Mandalay City Development Committee (MCDC) building rules section 10 (a), (b), (c), the new fine rates for buildings constructed beyond the permit stipulations or without approval are US$10.89 (K15,000) per square foot for reinforced concrete buildings and US$7.26 (K10,000) per square foot for brick nogging buildings. The penalty for business and contract buildings will be US$10.89 (K15,000) per square foot, while for other buildings it will be US$5.81 (K8,000) per square foot.

Earlier, builders violating the norms could easily pay a small fine and continue flouting guidelines. The MCDC hopes that the new fines will force builders to construct in accordance with the regulations. In some cases, the fines can be higher than the value of the building depending on the violation. The MCDC also stipulated that buildings for business use should include parking lots, fire extinguishers, and automated fire extinguishing systems.

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Electrifying Laos: Opportunities for FDI in 2017

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By Zolzaya Erdenebileg 

While Laos is still one of the poorest members in ASEAN, the country has posted strong growth rates for the past ten years, typically oscillating between seven and eight percent. This places Laos among the fastest-growing economies in ASEAN. The country is rich in resources, particularly agriculture, forestry, hydropower, and minerals. However, infrastructure is still underdeveloped and poverty rates are high. Efficient management of national resources is key to unlocking Lao’s development potentials, and any instability in governance will pose higher risk for potential investors.

Economy snapshot

Laos is forecasted to have reached a growth rate of 6.8 percent in 2016. In 2017, the economy is expected to improve at a slightly faster rate with seven percent. This will make Laos the third fastest growing economy in ASEAN, behind Myanmar and Cambodia. Inflation remains steady at a projected 1.6 percent and 2.3 percent in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Laos runs a negative current account balance, at about 16 percent of GDP in 2016.

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