Today, in Vientiane, trading began at the Lao Securities Exchange. The market was open from 8:30 to 11:30. Shares worth 2.1bn kip (US$262,000) changed hands, with prices for the exchange’s two listed companies, EDL-Generation, a power company, and BCEL, a bank, closing up from their IPO levels (BCEL gained an impressive 45%). Foreign investors can acquire up to 10% of EDL-Generation but are barred from trading BCEL’s shares.

These modest beginnings hide grand ambitions. Officials expect firms to raise US$8bn on the exchange over the next five years, no doubt inspired by neighbouring China’s heady mix of both communism and capital markets.