Workshop on the Dissemination of the SME Development Plan 2016-2020

In promoting the implementation of the SME Development Plan 2016-2020 at the central and provincial level throughout Lao PDR, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce organized the first Workshop on the Dissemination of the SME Development Plan 2016 – 2020 for the Central Provinces of Lao PDR on January 09th 2018 in Thakhek (Khammouane Province). The event was supported by the Regional Economic Integration of Laos into ASEAN, Trade and Entrepreneurship Development (RELATED) Project of the Lao – German Development Cooperation.

More than sixty delegates from both public and private sectors participated at the event chaired by H. E. Khammani Pholsena, Minister of Industry and Commerce. They represented Departments, Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Business Associations from five Provinces (Vientiane, Borlikhamxay, Xaysomboun, Khammouane and Savannakhet), the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, relevant other Ministries and the Bank of Laos from Vientiane Capital.

The SME Development Plan 2016-2020 was officially endorsed by the Prime Minister Decree No. 253/PM, dated January 18th 2017. The key objectives of the SME Development Plan 2016-2020 are (i) to improve the enabling environment for SMEs; (ii) to enhance the competitiveness and sustainable growth of Lao SMEs, and (ii) to enable their integration into regional (especially the ASEAN Economic Community) and international markets.

Therefore, the SME Development Plan 2016-2020 covers 7 policies, which contribute to the social-economic development of Lao PDR: 1) the Promotion of Productivity, Technology and Innovation; 2) the Promotion of Access to Finance; 3) the Promotion of Access to Business Development Services; 4) the Enhancement of Market Access and Expansion; 5) the Strengthening of Entrepreneurial Development; 6) the Policy to create a favorable Environment for Businesses; and 7) Policies on Customs and Taxation.

In the first part of the workshop, key components of the SME Law from 2011 and the SME Development Plan 2016-2020 were presented and explained by Mr. Sa Siriphong and Mr. Bountheung Doungsavanh, Deputy Director Generals of the Department of SME Promotion (DOSMEP) at the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. Delegates appreciated that selected sector-specific aspects of the SME Development Plan were further elaborated by representatives of the Department of Finance of Khammouane Province, Ministry of Science and Technology and the Bank of Laos.

Mr. Daovone Phachanthavong, Vice President of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, shared the private sector perspective with participants. He referred in particular to the recently established SME Service Center, operated by LNCCI and DOSMEP, would play a key role in turning projects and activities of the SME Development Plan 2016-2020 into action. Currently, steps are undertaken to establish pilot SME Services Centers in selected provinces, such as Luang Prabang, Savannakhet and Champasak.

During the second part of the Workshop, representatives from all participating Provinces presented and exchanged about the situation of SMEs as well as past and future efforts to support the development of SMEs in their respective province. Of particular interest is the case of Borlikhamxay Province, the Department of Industry and Commerce presented how the national SME Development Plan has already been translated into a provincial SME Development Action Plan.

As Chairperson of the workshop, H.E Minister Khemmani Pholsena encouraged the delegates from different provinces to share their open perspectives and to take action to turn the SME Development Plan 2016-2020 into reality. At the same time, H.E. Minister Pholsena addressed that measures on the provincial level should be prioritized according to provincial contexts and in line with budgets. The relevant departments should develop an annual SME Development Action Plan for effective implementation.

Participants actively exchanged their perspectives, asked questions and raised comments at the workshop. More importantly, representatives from the Provincial Department of Industry and Commerce of Vientiane, Xaysomboun, Khammouane and Savannakhet declared that translating the National SME Development Plan 2016-2020 into provincial plans and their implementation is necessary. They described the promising agenda to contribute their hard efforts for enhancing the competiveness and sustainable development of the local SMEs.