A policy consultation workshop on November 24 explored ways to make life easier for business owners in the informal sector, especially street vendors and fisheries cooperatives, by enabling them to obtain the requisite permits to operate legally.

Centred on the promotion of business-friendly environments and the social welfare of young female entrepreneurs, the workshop discussed policy-level issues pertaining to the process of licensing informal businesses within existing legal and policy frameworks.

The event was attended by more than 100 national and sub-national government officials, civil society organisation representatives and business owners.

Speaking at the workshop, Policy Analysis and Development Division (PADD) deputy director Khorl Yuthly stressed that practical input and recommendations to policymakers could pave the way for more young female entrepreneurs and small-business owners to obtain the applicablepermits, thereby opening doors to more benefits and otherwise bringing positive changes to their livelihoods.

"The informal economy has been a top component of the country's economic engine for decades, contributing to the creation of jobs and employment opportunities as well as development,” he said.

For reference, the 2011 Economic Census found that there were 505,134 businesses nationwide – 329,004 women-owned (65.13 per cent) – employing over 1.67 million people. Establishments with fewer than 100 persons engaged accounted for 504,348, or 99.84 per cent, and only 3.32 per cent of these were registered with the Ministry of Commerce.

Yuthly continued: “To ensure that sub-national administrations are able to provide the public services and meet the needs of the citizens, especially young female entrepreneurs and professionals, we need to review and restructure their working processes and functions."

He asserted that in the future, sub-national administrations will need an efficient and progressive administrative system for human resource management; public finance management and procurement; and hiring and retaining the staff needed to run it.

"Sub-national administrations need to develop plans and budgets that reflect priorities at each local level through consultation with the people, civil society organisations and the private sector as well as informal-business owners.

“The capacities of sub-national administrations must also be increased, empowering them to make decisions related to the use of their budget to meet their responsibilities," he said.

At the same event, Kong Sithika, deputy director-general of the commerce ministry’s General Department of Domestic Trade, brought up the fact that the “remarkably large” Cambodian small service business sector mainly comprises enterprises that are not properly registered under the existing legal framework.

She contended that the current legal framework keeps a fair share of businesses from registering, saying that owners claim the process to be complicated and difficult to follow.

Although many micro-enterprises are seeking support and ways to build themselves up, such businesses are less likely to have access to precise information,adding to their list of challenges, especially those with limited IT and technical skills.

Hence, she recommended a focus “on the policies regarding the forms and procedures involved in the issuance of business and service licences for the informal economy”.