Legal Market Overview
Suffice it to say, Laos’ socialist economy places it in an exceptional position on the global stage. Yet, while able to count its ideological counterparts on one hand, the nation is hardly isolated. Steady market liberalisation and the adoption of new economic mechanisms have ensured a continuous flow of foreign investment across a number of sectors, in spite of the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cross-border activity has long been a cornerstone of the Lao economy. Thailand, Vietnam, and the PRC all serve as major investors in the domestic market, most notably in the hydropower, metallurgy, and mining sectors – utilising the country’s abundant water resources and rich mineral reserves. While Laos still relies heavily on imported petroleum and gas, hydroelectric power is an increasingly popular source of domestic energy as well as a key export. While telecommunications infrastructure is limited, mobile phone usage is high, and an increasing number of foreign tech and app-based companies are establishing operations in the country in response to ever-growing demand.
In spite of the severe economic dent made by Covid’s initial outbreak and subsequent waves, GDP growth in 2021 is projected to be 3.6% – compared to 0.5% the preceding year. Subsistence agriculture and heavy industry are the driving forces behind the recovery, while the tourism and hospitality sectors continue to suffer as international travel restrictions and uncertainty pervade.
The tight-knit legal market is dominated a small number of firms, and while some operate with a foreign managing counsel, the teams are highly capable and experienced in the local market. DFDL Legal & Tax, Tilleke & Gibbins (Laos), and VDB Loi are the key names to note, while McDonald Patafta & Associates Lawyers, Rajah & Tann (Laos), and ZICO Law are also recommended for their broad capabilities in a range of industries and practice areas.