(KPL) International Finance CorporationIFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is promoting improved access to SME-finance in the Lao PDR by facilitating a business enabling environment and developing market solutions for serving small and medium enterprises.
SMEs are key drivers of economic growth and the primary engine of job creation in the country.
SMEs account for more than 99% of total enterprises and over 80% of the workforce in Lao PDR, according to the latest economic census in 2013.
Yet, they face a financing gap of US$1.2 billion and only 12.4% of SMEs have a bank loan or credit line with banks. Of this, women-owned SMEs face a financing gap of US$ 340 million.
To help remove the financial hindrance to SME growth, IFC, in collaboration with the Bank of the Lao PDR, on Tuesday held a workshop on ‘Financial Solutions for Small and Medium Enterpises in the Lao PDR’. The aim was to underline the need for a robust financial infrastructure and a favourable operating environment that encourages financial institutions to expand lending to SMES in the country.
A number of policy reforms have been made over the past few years to improve the regulatory framework for SME-finance activities, said Vatthana Dalaloy, Deputy Governor, Bank of the Lao PDR. With IFC’s support, we will further enhance the financial infrastructure in line with the sector’s best practices. We also aim to help financial institutions build capacity and upgrade relevant skills to augment this segment.
The daylong workshop brought together 200 participantsindustry specialists from IFC and the World Bank and banks across Asia, Lao financial sector players and regulators- to discuss potential solutions for improved access to SME-finance in the Lao PDR. Panelists deliberated on issues such as policy environment, regulations, and interest cap, among others.
The event also explored emerging trends and innovations in SME finance.
Financial institutions play an important role of allocating capital efficiently to ensure that with sufficient financing, businesses, especially SMEs, can contribute towards the growth of a country’s economy. Advancing sector policy reforms will enable financial institutions to grab new market opportunities, thereby helping them and their clients grow, said Vivek Pathak, IFC Director for East Asia and the Pacific. This workshop is an effort in that direction. We hope that recommendations and insights emerging from today’s event will help unlock the full potential of the private sector for improved access to finance in the Lao PDR.
With support from Japan and Switzerland, IFC has been working with the Lao government to strengthen a legal framework that enables the development of efficient and effective financial infrastructure in the country.
The establishment of an online secured transaction registry system, an electronic credit information system, and a national payment system has significantly supported financial institutions’ lending activities.
IFC has also partnered with local banks such as ACLEDA Laos and Banque Franco Lao Ltd to increase their lending to local SMEs.
Source: Lao News Agency