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Government, partners discuss trade private sector priorities

The medium term of trade and private sector development priorities has been discussed and reviewed, with a view to improving the business environment to create favourable conditions to promote post-pandemic economic recovery.

The discussion took place in Vientiane on Wednesday during the 18th Trade and Private Sector Working Group meeting in a hybrid setting. The event was organised by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and development partners.

The meeting was co-chaired by the Minister of Industry and Commerce, Dr Khampheng Saysompheng; Ambassador of the European Union Delegation to Laos, EIF Donor Facilitator, Ms Ina Marciulionyte; and Australian Ambassador to Laos, Mr Paul Kelly with more than 150 participants representing line ministries, embassies, development partners, and domestic and foreign business communities virtually participated in this meeting.

The meeting discussed key findings and recommendations from the World Bank’s Lao PDR Country Economic Memorandum and the Ministry of Information and Commerce’s Diagnostic Trade Integration Study. It drew lessons from two ongoing private sector/SME support initiatives, namely Supporting Business Recovery through Matching Grant Scheme under the Business Assistance Facility of the Lao Competitiveness and Trade Project, and Improving business environment through public private dialogue under the Lao Business Forum.

Speaking at the event, Mr Khampheng said “We all know that evidence on policy implementation on the ground indicates that our trade and private sector development policies are not always implemented as envisioned and do not always achieve the intended outcomes.”

“The policy and implementation gap are attributed to several factors, including inappropriate policy design, lack of effective implementation arrangement or lack of necessary human and financial resources.”, “However, many noted that recent policy reforms represented sound progress in improving the enabling environment, but that implementation remained problematic. This suggests that the answer to improving the investment climate does not always lie in new policies, laws, or regulations, but rather in focusing on better implementation,” he added while Ambassador Kelly highlighted the social and economic impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in Laos and the importance of the private sector as an engine for medium- and long-term economic recovery.

The key challenges facing the Lao economy and proposed recommendations to restore macro-fiscal stability and improve competitiveness of the agriculture, manufacturing, and services through leveraging natural wealth and strategic location, and addressing specific investment climate constraints and skill development were discussed.

The second topic focused on key findings of the second Diagnostic Trade Integration Study Update and proposed priority actions to further improve the business environment, trade facilitation, and sector specific issues to enhance competitiveness of agribusiness, tourism and manufacturing sectors.

Ms Marciulionyte reiterated her support for further strengthening of collaboration between the Trade and Private Sector Working Group and Lao Business Forum.

She encouraged all concerned agencies to continue improving transparency and predictability of the country’s regulatory environment to attract quality investment to better prepare for LDC graduation and long-term economic recovery.

Source: Vientiane Times