Lao business sector seeking crackdown on illegal operators

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Legitimate private sector interests have called on the government body responsible for creating a business-friendly environment to tackle illicit trade, informal businesses, and firms operating without licences.

Members of the business community representing numerous companies and entrepreneurs made the call at a Public and Private Consultative Meeting held recently in Vientiane.

The meeting sought solutions to improving the business climate in Laos and assessed related issues such as the removal of unnecessary barriers to attracting domestic and foreign investment.

It also discussed the challenges faced by the public and private sectors in terms of implementing measures to enhance the business climate, which needs to be urgently reformed.

Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce, Mr Somchit Inthamith, and Vice President of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LNCCI), Ms Valy Vetsaphong, co-chaired the meeting.

Speaking on behalf of the private sector, Ms Valy told the media that illicit trade and illegal business operators without licences was resulting in a massive loss of government tax revenue.

“Also, the unlawful practices of informal businesses give them an unfair advantage over legal firms,” she said, and urged the public sector, as a key player in cracking down on all forms of illegal trade and business operations, to take immediate action.

A formal summary of issues proposed to the public sector by business, which cited examples of illegal trade, highlighted the distribution and sale of smuggled tobacco products without payment of duties and taxes.

A senior customs official from the Ministry of Finance responded to the complaint by stating that checking for smuggled goods was a priority at international checkpoints, but efforts weren’t always successful in catching smugglers.

He said senior ministry officials had been closely monitoring unsolved issues in collaboration with the concerned ministries to tackle unlawful practices among informal business operators.

 A Prime Minister’s order has tasked the ministries of Planning and Investment, Public Works and Transport, Energy and Mines, Natural Resources and Environment, Finance, Public Security and Justice, and the Bank of the Lao PDR to improve the business climate.

The government is determined to promote a business-friendly climate, with concerned ministries working with international development partners to seek solutions to several issues.