Fellow ASEAN countries and other nations, such as China, Japan, South Korea, and the United States, are now competing to expand businesses in Laos.
Indonesia, through the Indonesian Embassy (KBRI) and Investment Coordinating Board, is holding a Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Exhibition and Planetarium Walk in Laos on May 5 and 6, 2018, in an effort to utilize the market in Laos.
"The role of UKM is increasingly important. In Indonesia, SME is one of the most important pillars of the Indonesian economy," Interim Charge d`Affaires of the Indonesian Embassy in Laos, A. Firman Arif W. Soepalal, remarked while opening the exhibition at the Vientiane Center, Laos, on Saturday.
Indonesian investors should capitalize on business opportunities in Laos. Held at the Vientiane Center, one of the main malls in Laos, the fair was designed to make Indonesian investors realize that Laos offers various business opportunities that could be cultivated, Soepalal stated.
He admitted that so far only a small number of Indonesian businesses were willing to invest in shares or develop factories in Laos, which had no coastline.
"We must be willing to change the mindset that Laos is a lagging country, while actually it has much potential," he revealed, pointing out that the Lao Foreign Minister had several times stated that many forms of cooperation could be explored by both countries.
Indonesia currently has some 54 million SMEs, and the figure is estimated to support up to some 60 percent of the national gross domestic product. Therefore, Indonesia can benefit from the potential of the market in Laos. Indonesian businesses should not be late and stay behind those of other ASEAN countries in expanding their markets to the Indochinese country.
"When I return to Jakarta to report, I have always said that Indonesia should not forget Laos," Wishnu Krisnamurthi, the chief Economy Function of the Indonesian Embassy in Laos, stated after the opening of the SME exhibition in Vientiane Center on Saturday.
Krisnamurthi reminded that the Indochina area has been quietly continuing to develop in cooperation with the group of CLMVT, which is an acronym of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Thailand.
Cooperation within the CLMVT framework has also been carried out with a number of major countries, such as China, Japan, Korea, and the United States.
A number of other ASEAN countries have been active in exploiting the Laosian economy, such as Singapore and Malaysia. Singapore has been active in educational cooperation, while Malaysia has been active in a special economic zone in Savannakhet province located in southern Laos.
"The economy of Savannakhet is the most advanced special economic zone in Laos," Krisnamurthi noted.
Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) were focused on implementing two programs, E-READI and ARISE Plus, for cooperation in a number of Indochina region countries, namely Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam.
"The cooperation program is actually for 10 ASEAN member countries, but the markets in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam are considered to still need special support. They are less developed than others," EU Ambassador to the Asean, Francisco Fontan Pardo, remarked at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta on April 17.
After the launch of E-READI and ARISE Plus, he explained that the two initiatives were a form of EU support for the establishment of a single market of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2025.
As ASEAN`s main trading partner, and the second largest investor in the region, the EU helps in establishment of a cohesive and stable single market in Southeast Asia, he added. This would be beneficial not only for investors from the European Union but also for the people of Southeast Asia. "Imagine, if there is a single market, the exchange of goods and services can be more easily done," the ambassador pointed out.
It is in this framework that Indonesia should not be left behind other countries. After all, many Indonesian products in Laos have entered the country from Thailand.
According to Krishamurthi, many products, such as food products, from Indonesia are found in Laos, but the products are imported by Thailand, which is then exported to Laos.
In addition, there is also a cinema network in Laos, with one of its shareholders being a businessman from Indonesia, but it is also a cooperation of Thai businessmen with a Lao-flagged company.
Therefore, not only employers but also various local government in Indonesia need to come and invest in Laos.