Laos starts engaging in international economy

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Like its fellow socialist neighbors China and Vietnam, Laos has remained politically closed but opened its economy to engage in global capitalism.

Tue Aug 2, 2011 2:11AM GMT

Rick Valenzuela, Press TV, Laos

Laos’ bourse opened in January. It remains tiny, with just two companies listed, both of which are state-owned. But its very existence is a reminder that Laos’ economy is no longer irrelevant to other countries in the region.

Still a sleepy capital by international standards, Vientiane is seeing an influx of foreign goods and development. On the riverfront, the city celebrates a former King who sought territory in Thailand. Now the country is opening its arms, welcoming foreign investors.

Driven by interest in Laos’ abundant natural resources – hydropower and mining in particular – foreign investment rose dramatically from $51 million in 2001 to $13.6 billion last year.

The stock exchange, says Vanthana Dalaloy, who heads the bourse, is a way to streamline and consolidate the money that’s pouring in.

Though trade remains extremely limited, companies and individuals from 20 countries – most within Asia – have invested, Dalaloy says.

Technical support from South Korea’s exchange, gives Laos’ credibility, she says.

But that’s no small consideration.

In the meantime, Greenlee says companies are likely to wait on the sidelines for a year or two before they decide whether or not to jump in.

But even as the stock exchange remains a tenuous enterprise, the Asian Development Bank says Laos’ broader economic intentions are clear.

And for a country that closed itself off after colonialization, it seems ready to play more in the international arena.

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