As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ILO with funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation launches new project promoting resilience and recovery of Lao PDR’s micro, small and medium enterprises.
VIENTIANE (ILO News) – Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSME) in Lao PDR will benefit from a new initiative launched today that will help them overcome the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ‘Supporting resilience of Lao MSMEs in response to COVID-19’ initiative will be implemented by the International Labour Organization from December 2020 to May 2022 in collaboration with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LNCCI), with funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).
Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in Lao PDR are the backbone for job creation and the economy, accounting for more than 80 per cent of employment in the country. The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the sector with considerable losses in working hours, jobs and incomes.
In his opening speech, H.E Somchith Inthamith, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, highlighted that the spread of COVID-19 over the past year has had a devastating impact globally, and in Lao PDR for the MSME sector. He emphasized that Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), play an important role for the entire nation and the livelihood of all ethnic groups have been severely affected. Many businesses had to cease operations or are at risk of going bankrupt.
The new project will work with financial institutions to support formal and informal MSMEs to access cash, credit and other financial services. This is increasingly crucial as smaller enterprises typically have limited cash reserves and lower levels of productivity, putting them at risk from COVID-19 disruptions.
Simultaneously, it will provide reliable information related to COVID-19 support measures and entrepreneurship development for MSMEs. The programme will also deliver business development services and training for owners and aspiring entrepreneurs, including in the informal sector, to build business and financial management skills, and stimulate innovative business ideas.
Ms. Joni Simpson, Officer-in-Charge of the ILO Country Office for Thailand, Cambodia and Lao People's Democratic Republic said, “Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises are at the heart of the Lao economy. By helping them to overcome the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic we can support a human-centred recovery that benefits workers, businesses and the economy alike.”
The project builds on previous successes of ILO programmes, including the SME Access to Finance Project and the use of the Laos In Business training tools. By contributing to the rapid recovery of Lao PDR’s MSME sector, the project is committed to facilitating economic revival, poverty reduction and decent work in the country.
Mr Jean-Francois Cuenod, Regional Director for the Mekong Region, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) said, “Private sector enterprises in Lao PDR provide work and income to large numbers of women and men. Their involvement in development initiatives is necessary to ensure wide reach and rapid impact.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Daovone Phachanthavong, Vice-President of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, assured all stakeholders of the commitment of the LNCCI in representing the voice of MSMEs and in ensuring the appropriate support is provided to the sector.
The launch event, held at the LNCCI in Vientiane, introduced the project to public and national stakeholders in Lao PDR, invited participatory discussions and concluded with an official signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).