Lao start-ups face challenges, need support

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The Bank of the Lao PDR (BOL). VIENTIANE TIMES

Lao start-ups are facing challenges in their efforts to help strengthen the national economy, including a lack of legislation that supports their set-up and administration, with little incentive from the government.

Lack of a good definition of startups among the general public and the infrastructure required to support a start-up ecosystem is still limited for example, in relation to the quality and cost of Internet usage in the country. This information was summarised as a priority issue during discussions on progress in public-private dialogue through the Lao Business Forum in recent months.

In contrast, it appears that neighbouring countries have shown great interest in and provided policy support for start-ups. The summary provided the example that the Vietnamese government has announced plans to create a business enabling environment that is attractive to businesses with high potential growth, especially those that use new technology and intellectual property. This can be seen in the “Vietnamese Prime Minister’s Instruction on the approval of policy support for the creation of start-ups enabling business environment and transforming the country into a start-up nation by 2015”.

In addition, Thailand announced the “Thailand 4.0” policy to support and promote business innovation and new ideas using new technology, which includes several measures to promote start-ups including the National Start-up Promotion Centre.

Since start-ups can bring potential benefits to a country’s development, the Lao government should play a central role in taking the initiative to provide a policy strategy and action plans to support the start-up community. The majority of start-ups use new ideas and innovation with a high risk of failure, but relatively high returns.

Start-ups have the potential for economic growth. For instance, job creation and new working styles add value to the economy, encourage new ideas and innovation and a variety of businesses and the use of new technology. Business entrepreneurs proposed that the government should provide a clear definition of “start-up”, agreeing on the following points: To create public awareness of start-ups by providing a policy to support start-up promotion, such as the Start-up Nation in Vietnam, Thailand 4.0, and Start-up India, Stand up India.

Such a policy should include specific measures to support and promote start-ups, including tax incentives, and a budget to promote the use of new technology and training by involving private sector participation to collect feedback on the creation of a policy to support the start-up community in Laos.

Establish and improve regulations and laws that can provide direct support for start-ups, such as a regulatory framework to govern online businesses and e-commerce. The Department of Technology and Innovation of the Ministry of Science and Technology has partnered with the Department of Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce to draft a Start-up Promotion Policy.