- Dr. Vu Tien Loc, Chairman of Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry;

- Representatives and experts of Government Ministries and Agencies and Provincial Authorities;

- Representatives of Enterprises, Cooperatives and Associations;

- Representatives of the Press;

- Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my honor to speak at this Policy Forum devoted to Supporting SMEs impacted by COVID-19.

At the outset, I would like to congratulate Government of Viet Nam for successfully containing the virus, which has been a great success story globally. UNDP is proud to have been working with the Government, enterprises and other partners in supporting a number of important activities responding to COVID-19.

SMEs are a key driving force of Viet Nam’s economy, contributing 45 percent of GDP and accounting for 70 percent of employment.

Viet Nam’s enterprises have played a key role in innovation for containing the pandemic and mitigating its socio-economic impacts. Enterprises rapidly developed effective test kits for the virus, set up “rice ATMs” to support people who lost employment, produced antibacterial masks that have been used throughout Viet Nam and in many other countries for pandemic prevention.

As we will hear today, Viet Nam’s enterprises have also faced significant impacts. UNDP’s rapid assessment in April and May showed that COVID-19 substantially reduced revenue for micro, small and medium enterprises, forcing most to cut back business operations and reduce numbers of workers, due to the serious decrease in their output demand and supply disruptions. Another UNDP’s study to be published in January indicates that cooperatives have also faced disproportionate impacts from the pandemic, however they have not yet been directly included in key national support policies.

Building on UNDP’s on-going support and based on our finding that SMEs in Bac Kan and Dak Nong provinces that were already applying e-payments and e-commerce have fared better during the pandemic, UNDP is supporting additional enterprises in these provinces on digital transformation of their business activities. UNDP is currently providing training on business continuity for SMEs and cooperatives. We are also providing direct support to cooperatives on green recovery and building forward better, for example with Dragon Fruit Cooperatives in Binh Thuan and Handicrafts Cooperatives in Ha Giang, whose products are on display here today at the Forum.

The Policy Forum today will provide an important opportunity to listen to presentations on the Government’s support policies for businesses impacted by COVID-19, the difficulties that enterprises are encountering and perspectives from SMEs and cooperatives on their support needs, also taking into account the double impacts of COVID-19 and natural disasters, in particular the successive floods and storms in October and November 2020. The recovery from COVID-19 and other disaster impacts must put SMEs at the forefront.

The Forum is expected to identify key enabling actions needed by the Government so that enterprises can engage in all aspects of disaster risk reduction and response. Going forward, innovative schemes and measures such as micro-insurance for SMEs, tax deferral for impacted businesses and disproportionately impacted sectors such as tourism, green and sustainable incentives and preferential energy policies, and innovative financing options including green bonds and sustainable bonds should be considered as measures to strengthen preparedness, resilience and recovery from complex disasters.

Ladies and gentlemen,

2020 has been in many ways an unprecedented year. Viet Nam has faced complex disasters including drought, the COVID-19 pandemic, and successive floods and storms. Any one of these would normally be considered a devastating event with substantial socio-economic impacts. It is testament to Viet Nam’s resilience and timely and effective response that the country has managed to cope so well.

At the same time, we also know that Viet Nam will continue to face further natural disasters in coming years, which are forecast to increase in number and to intensify due to climate change.

I would like to commend Mr. Vu Tien Loc and his team at VCCI for working closely with UNDP in organizing this policy forum, which is financially supported through the “Connecting Businesses Initiative”. This is a global initiative set up by UNDP and United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), designed to find practical solutions for engaging the private sector and businesses in disaster preparedness and disaster risk reduction.

In 2019, UNDP, VCCI and the Viet Nam Disaster Management Authority (VNDMA) carried out a landscape assessment of the role of the private sector and enterprises in responding to natural disasters. This assessment showed that the private sector and businesses have an important role to play in disaster risk reduction, including business continuity planning, risk-informed business development and strengthened resilience of enterprises when disasters occur. The assessment identified capacity gaps and the need for training to improve disaster risk information.

Building on our review in 2019 and the important discussions today in this Policy Forum, UNDP looks forward to continually strengthening our strategic partnership with VCCI, the Viet Nam Disaster Management Authority, enterprises, cooperatives and their associations to move ahead in setting up the Viet Nam Business Network for Disaster Risk Reduction, in order to promote policies suitable for micro, small and medium enterprises and cooperatives responding to and impacted by COVID and natural disasters.

We also stand ready to provide further support to enterprises and cooperatives to strengthen their capacity and planning for disaster risks, business continuity and recovery.

I am confident that working together, our joint efforts will contribute to a more resilient and prosperous country, where no one is left behind.    

Thank you. Xin Cam On!

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