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Ministry Amends Law On Single Window Service For Investors

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The Ministry of Planning and Investment is amending the law on the single window service and its management in a bid to streamline the process of registering and setting up a business in Laos.

It was realised that the current system was inefficient and was causing delays in the issuing of investment licences.

The existing system doesn’t work well because management is weak and there are too many delays in communication between the various government departments involved, Director General of the ministry’s Investment Promotion Department, Mr Manothong Vongsay, said on Friday.

The staff and officials who work in the offices that provide this service are only representatives of the related state sectors and do not have the right to make decisions or approve any of the documents and forms submitted, he said.

They have to take these documents, which request an investment licence, to higher level officials and wait for them to be approved and signed. This causes long delays and does not meet the required deadline.

It is hoped that amendments to the regulations will make this service more efficient by setting up an Investment Promotion and Management Committee.

This committee will comprise officials from the relevant state agencies that have the right to make decisions on issues or resolve problems and can issue or approve investment licences, Mr Manothong said.

The committee will meet frequently and also hold urgent meetings to ensure that this important work is not delayed and is completed on time.

The single window service currently has three offices – one at the Ministry of Planning and Investment, one at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, and another in the Vientiane economic zone.

The service is not properly implemented and the existing system is inefficient. This is the conclusion drawn by evaluations and reports from international organisations such as the Asian Development Bank, World Bank and others, Mr Manothong said when speaking at a recent Public Consultation Workshop on the 2009 Investment Promotion Law Revision.

Their evaluations recommend that the single window service be centralised at one location and should be operated by the National Production Promotion Office. This is what takes place in other countries, he added.

This means the single window service would have one representative office in Vientiane and one in each province to facilitate investment by both local and foreign businesses.

Changes to the single window service fall under one regulation contained in the Investment Promotion Law. This law is currently being amended by the Ministry of Planning and Investment which hopes to submit a draft amendment to the National Assembly in the next two months, after several years of discussion to update and clarify the content.

The ministry expects to submit it to the National Assembly in October, with the final version to be agreed on after talks began in 2013. It hopes the Assembly will approve the amendment this year.

If it is not approved and needs further work, officials from the state sectors involved will need to engage in further discussions.

The ministry has amended some articles that were unclear and were difficult to implement, causing delays and wasting time. The changes should result in the fast approval of investment licences and greater transparency, and improve investment promotion by speeding up the processing of requests for investment licences and their approval, as well as project sale and transfer.

The law must also relate to agreements Laos has made with other countries to ensure it does not differ significantly from th ose of neighbouring countries and others in the region.

The Investment Promotion Law came into effect in 1988 and has been amended three times – in 1994, 2004 and 2009. Now the ministry is preparing the fourth amendment. The changes will bring the law in line with today’s investment climate and improve conditions for both local and foreign investors.

Source: Vientiane Times