On 17 February 2021, the Department of Planning and Cooperation, Ministry of Industry and Commerce, organized a Wrap-Up meeting for the Mid-Term Review (MTR) of the Lao PDR Competitiveness and Trade (LCT) Project. The Meeting was honorably chaired by Mrs. Khemmani Pholsena, Minister of Industry and Commerce with representation from donors led by Mr. Nicola Pontara, Country Manager of World Bank Group in Lao PDR and Ms. Jane Chandler, Deputy Ambassador of Australian Embassy in Lao PDR, together with the representatives from line ministries, development partners and private sectors participated in the meeting.
Mrs. Khemmani Pholsena, Minister of Industry and Commerce said in her opening remarks that despite challenges from COVID-19 related travel restrictions, the mission team was able to complete all planned activities including review implementation performance and quality of activities undertake over the past two years from the project effectiveness, discuss and agree in principle any necessary changes needed to be made to ensure delivery of project intended outcomes, including possible extension and additional financing.
During the opening session, Ms. Jane Chandler, Deputy Ambassador of Australian Embassy in Lao PDR emphasized the level of impact that COVID-19 is having on economy and livelihood and how interventions supported under the LCT Project could support Government response to mitigate the impact of the pandemic and support medium term economic recovery.
Mr. Pontara stressed the strategic importance of this project in supporting government’s economic recovery plan as well as long term plan to promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth in Laos.
After the opening remarks, World Bank Task Team led by Ms. Melise Jaud, Senior Economist, summarized key findings and recommendations as following.
“Despite the impact of Covid-19, the project is on track of achieving project objectives, however, there is gap between technical outputs and policy actions. Going forward strong political support will be required from all concerned public agencies to ensure all planned business environment reforms take place within the project time frame”. Ms. Jaud concluded her presentation by outlining key next steps to prepare for possible additional financing for the project.
The meeting broadly agreed with proposed actions to accelerate implementation of project activities as well as potential areas for possible additional financing, the process of which should be completed by early June 2021.
In her closing remarks, Mrs. Khemmani Pholsena emphasized that the mechanisms to translate technical outputs into the needed policy changes are in place although progress have been slow especially under Pillar A and B, where capacity, buy-in from IAs and inter-agencies coordination remain key challenges; the Business Assistance Facility under Pillar C continues to perform robustly despite COVID-19 pandemic, and efforts have been made to mainstream gender issues across all components and build basic technical capacity on gender within both the NIU and IAs, and the project implementation unit has improved project and fiduciary management and inter-institutional coordination between line ministries.
H.E. Minister closed the meeting by expressing her sincere thanks to all donors, development partners for co-financing the LCT project and all participants for their efforts in implementing complex business environment reform program as well as their participation at the meeting.
Lao PDR Competitiveness and Trade (LCT) project is a multi-donor project funded by the World Bank Group, Australian Aid, Irish Aid, and USAID that aims to eliminate the barriers to private sector-led growth by improving the regulatory environment, lowering trade costs and raising firm-level competitiveness.
Information Source: Trade for Development