- Magdalena Parkhurst
The Laos Business Environment Activity Provides Platform for SMEs to Talk Policy
Discussing policy is a relatively new concept in Lao. In the past, open discussion of policy-related issues faced by SMEs was rare and considered something of a taboo. Compounding this issue was the absence of platforms for SMEs and entrepreneurs to discuss Lao business policies. The USAID Laos Business Environment Activity responded to this need by developing Policy Talk – a series of events organized around the concept of facilitating a robust discussion of key policies that impact SMEs in Lao PDR. Programs like Policy Talk can lead to improved laws and regulations and increased trust in public institutions.
The USAID Laos Business Environment Activity launched the Policy Talk series in partnership with the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LNCCI). The inaugural Policy Talk event focused on current issues such as the new tax identification regulations and cyber security and privacy issues. More than 60 individuals participated in the half-day event, 21 of whom were women. Participants included private sector representatives (Banking, ICT and Telecom, LNCCI) as well as public sector representatives (Bank of Laos, Ministry of Technology and Communication, Ministry of Finance (Tax Department), and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce).
Participants enjoyed a lively discussion of consumer protection and FinTech policies and guidelines that are being considered by the Lao government; banking and telecom company cybersecurity policies and plans; and regional and international collaboration policy on cybersecurity. The panel discussion and Q&A session allowed public and private sector attendees to debate major business and economic policy issues as well as obtain clarification from government representatives on specific points.
Participant feedback focused on the Policy Talk’s success at providing a platform and an opportunity for public-private dialogue, promoting open policy discussion, and helping the government to understand the private sector’s perspective on key regulations.
Based on these results, the USAID Laos Business Environment Activity will continue to support public-private dialogue (PPD) and promote more inclusive collaboration through Policy Talk and other PPD-related initiatives. The second Policy Talk event took place in August 2021, and we are looking forward to many more!