Procedures improved for cross-border trade

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Trading across borders has been eased and quickened thanks to the improvement of the procedures involved, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce says in a report.

The improvements are the result of the government’s efforts to create a more business-friendly environment.

Ministries and other government bodies are intensifying action to improve the ease-of-doing-business (EDB) climate after Laos’ EDB ranking as assessed by the World Bank dropped by 13 places to 154th among 190 economies worldwide.

The Ministry of Industry and Commerce said trading across borders – one of the 11 indicators the World Bank used to assess the ranking – has improved considerably.

Laos’ trading across borders facilitation ranking climbed from 124th in 2018 to 76th this year – an improvement of 48 places, according to the ministry’s 2019 trading across borders report.

This progress has put Laos fourth among the members of Asean, the 10-member regional bloc of which Laos is a member. Other Asean members - Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand – took the top three places.

But Laos was ranked ninth in EDB among Asean member states – only ahead of Myanmar, which ranked 171st globally.

Trading across borders facilitation is measured by five indicators – time taken to complete paperwork, time taken to complete procedures at border crossings, import, export, as well as total time taken and expenses.

Thanks to Laos’ improvements, the time taken to complete import-export documents dropped from nine days previously to two and a half days, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, the time taken to complete procedures at border crossings has been reduced by three hours to 11 hours for imports and to nine hours for exports.

However, the expenses involved in completing procedures at border checkpoints have increased, making it unfriendly for businesses.

The ministry said the additional charges could have been made after authorities in charge introduced electronic systems to speed up the documentation process at border crossings.  

The cost of completing the procedures for imports rose by US$71 to US$224, and by US$67 to US$140 for exports. 

“However, the overall expenses are much lower than those charged in neighbouring countries and other Asean members,” the ministry said in its report.

The World Bank’s EDB ranking measures reforms in 11 areas: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, resolving insolvency, and labour market regulations.

Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has instructed the ministries and sectors responsible for each indicator area to take thorough action and do more towards delivering better services and facilitate business operations.

The premier has made clear his intention for Laos to achieve significant improvement in the ease-of-doing-business ranking by 2020.

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