The 10th Lao Business Forum met in Vientiane Capital on March 28 to discuss progress in resolving issues facing the private sector and government plans to improve the business environment.
The forum was attended by more than 300 representatives from the private sector, government and donor agencies.
During the meeting, Prime Minister Thongloun, who chaired the forum, spoke about the need to improve laws, regulations and procedures in order to accelerate investment and sustainable private sector growth.
“In addition to maintaining a stable macro-economic environment, we have to pay more attention to improving the environment for doing business in our country, and promote the establishment and expansion of new and existing businesses, he said.
This will ensure that we create sufficient employment opportunities to absorb new entrants to the labour market: an estimated 90,000 persons per year over the next 10 years, and the expected release of labour from our agriculture sector, the PM added.
Improving legal and regulatory environment is critical pre-condition required for private enterprise growth. Despite our past efforts, businesses still face a number of challenges associated with ineffective enforcement of laws and regulations throughout the country. These include inconsistencies in procedures for enterprise registration and licensing, taxation, importing and exporting, and inconsistencies between central and local authorities’ practices, the Minister of Industry and Commerce, Mrs. Khemmani said.
The Minister explained that these issues have become significant obstacles to the creation and expansion of enterprises, which in turn have implications for job creation and poverty reduction. Similarly, in the area of capacity building for SME owners and managers, there is a need to learn lessons from past interventions and explore more effective approaches in the future.
Mr. Oudeth Souvannavong, the President of the LaoNational Chamber of Commerce and Industry(LNCCI), acknowledged the important role of the Lao Business Forum in improving the business environment.
Representatives from relevant line Ministries provided concrete responses to all the issues raised by private sector representatives.
Prime Minister Thongloun concluded the forum by announcing a number of government decisions to address specific issues raised by the private sector and promised that the government would take all the issues raised at the Forum into consideration and emphasized the necessity of continuing this constructive dialogue in the future.
During its meeting with the Prime Minister in November 2016, the business community proposed that the Government set a target of improving the business environment by improve Lao PDR’s ranking in the “Ease of Doing Business Report” from its current 139th place to a two-digit place by 2019.
As discussed during the November 2016 meeting, in addition to solving specific issues raised under the Lao Business Forum, in the medium term, both the public and private sectors must work together to address the following strategic issues that affect the long-term competitiveness of businesses.
Firstly, take measures to the build confidence of domestic and foreign investors in prevailing laws and regulations, by improving transparency and consistency in implementation under the framework of promoting rule-based governance.
Secondly, implement transparent and simple investment incentives to promote manufacturing and services sectors in which Lao PDR has a comparative advantage, including tourism, agri-business and textile handicraft.
Thirdly, address issues related to the shortage of skilled and unskilled labour; fourthly, review existing regulations governing the operation of commercial banks that constrain them from performing effective financial intermediary functions such as mobilization of resources and provision of loans to enterprises; fifthly, to strengthen the consumer promotion framework to mitigate impact from importation of low quality products stimulated by the trade liberalisation under the AEC; and finally, to request the Prime Minister’s Office to complete appointment of local points for key sectors.
Source: Lao News Agency