Businesses drive development, Lao leader says

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - An economic think-tank chief viewed a recent meeting between Party and state leaders and business representatives as a positive sign that the government will take serious steps to improve the business climate.

 “The Party Secretary General and President recently made the comment at a seminar titled ‘Current business problems and future solutions’. I view this event as a positive signal,” President of the Lao National Economic Research Institute, Mr Bouasone Bouphavanh, said last week.

Mr Bouasone, a former prime minister of Laos, offered his opinion while giving a presentation on the country’s economic outlook at a function held on October 30 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Vientiane.

A number of business representatives and researchers attended the event where they discussed and learnt about investment and business opportunities and challenges in the age of digitalisation.

According to Mr Bouasone, the Party and government were fully aware of the strong role played by businesses in driving national development, adding that several meetings between top political leaders and business representatives had been held in this regard.

Many business operators agreed with Mr Bouasone that the government acknowledged the essential role of business in national development. But, they said, the government must do more to publicise this view.

A businessman told Vientiane Times recently that he had learnt that the Party and government had drawn up policies to encourage more people to invest and run businesses so they could help the government to generate jobs and boost incomes.

But not many officials at the grassroots level were aware of this policy change, he said, adding that many government officials still viewed business operators as people who exploited workers for their own gain.

For this reason, he said, some officials did not provide practical and effective support to businesspeople. In addition, some officials abused their power and used their positions to obtain personal favours from business operators.

“Some officials still cling to the same old perceptions that existed when Laos was first liberated,” he said, adding that if officials did not change their mindset towards businesspeople it would be difficult for them to play a role in national development.

He said public officials should perceive themselves as facilitators and not controllers of business. In addition, they must view business leaders as partners in national development.

The government, under the leadership of President Bounhang Vorachit and Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, has issued a number of executive orders to state agencies, requiring them to make public services more accessible.

But many state bodies have failed to put these orders into practice. As a result, Laos has seen a big drop in its ease-of-doing-business index, falling from 141st to 154th this year. 



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