The price of merchandise in Laos, specifically food products, has been under tough scrutiny by the public for many years. Social media has given disgruntled citizens a platform to criticize the cost of goods that can vastly differ between markets and shops within the same city, suggesting to the government that there are flaws in the system.
Due to public contention regarding the cost of goods, the National Assembly has approved measures proposed by the government on the management of goods prices and service fees, while also urging the related Prime Ministerial Decree be upgraded to a law.
The NA used the final day of its third ordinary session to brainstorm a resolution on the management of goods prices, service fees and the measures in place to reduce the impact of high prices on productivity and livelihoods.
In an effort to reduce unnecessary fees and brokerage, the National Assembly urged the government to purchase first-hand goods directly from the manufacturers and then marketing them to the final consumer, resulting in a reduction of costs in imported goods and leading to higher profits from exports.
The National Assembly proposed upgrading the Prime Ministerial Decree on the management of prices to a law, as well as declaring additional decrees to strengthen the management and inspection of the importation and distribution of food products. The NA also advised that an accurate price structure for each category of product and set guidelines for the reduction of product costs should be developed .
The Assembly also called for tougher measures against unregulated and illegal importers and traders, including goods without labels, counterfeit or expired goods, as well as curbing the soaring price of food products and medicine.
Ms Valy Vetsaphong, assembly member for Vientiane mentioned that the larger trading companies who pay their taxes in line with the law, were struggling to compete with smaller retailers, who generally sold goods that had been illegally imported. She urged for measures to protect legal business operators and prevent traders from evading the payment of taxes, especially import tax.
Member for Savannakhet province, Mr Souksavanh Xaysombath, proposed that the centralization of importation should receive special attention, which could limit the unregulated import of goods by individuals.
Mr Souksavanh stated, “the people who benefit from illegal importation by individuals, are the importers themselves and some government officials. Large-scale business units, who pay a large amount of taxes legally, cannot compete with the ‘ant parade’.” He added, “this is a situation that causes price instability.”
The production of foodstuffs offers Laos opportunities in organic agriculture and environmentally friendly production that symbolizes the traditions of certain localities.