Government of Laos Seeks Way Out of Fuel Crisis

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Motorbikes queue for petrol during the ongoing fuel crisis in Laos
Motorbikes queue for petrol during the ongoing fuel crisis in Laos (Photo: Mahason).

The Government of Laos is seeking solutions to the fuel crisis, including finding ways to access the foreign currency desperately needed to bail out fuel importers.

The Lao Fuel and Gas Association held its annual meeting yesterday at the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LNCC), where government officials and fuel company executives consulted on the ongoing fuel crisis in Laos.

Minister of Industry and Commerce, Khampheng Saysompheng, said after the meeting that the government had devised short-term and long-term solutions.

Motorists buy petrol in plastic bottles from roadside resellers.
Motorists buy petrol in plastic bottles from roadside resellers (Photo: Channapha Kook).

Banks are to free up foreign currency for a select number of fuel importers over the next few days, using proceeds from the sale of natural resources and mining operations. Minister Khampheng believes that fuel companies should then be able to meet at least 50 percent of the country’s fuel requirements.

He said that importers need more than USD 100 million per month to secure fuel for the country, and in the short-term, the government will seek to provide up to USD 60 million.

Residents scour the city for petrol stations to fill up empty milk bottles.
Two young women looking for a petrol station to fill up empty milk bottles with fuel (Photo: AK).

Over the medium term, Laos will look to purchase fuels from new sources rather than relying solely on the current suppliers in Thailand and Vietnam.

Minister Khampheng said that Laos must come up with new strategies for the future in line with the current socio-economic situation. He said that the country does not yet have oil reserves or a fuel reserve fund, and that importers should not have to rely on the central bank, commercial banks, and currency traders to access foreign currency in the future.

Mr. Khampheng added that the idea of purchasing cheap oil from Russia was simply an idea at this stage, however, as the process of drafting purchase agreements would be lengthy and not a short-term solution.