The State should further improve the business environment and implement policies that will enable companies, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to achieve breakthroughs.

The insight came from experts attending a seminar in Hanoi on September 9 by the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Trinh ThiHuong, Deputy Head of the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Division of the MPI's Enterprise Development Department (EDD), cited a report of the EDD on the policies that have been implemented to support SMEs.

Huong said the policies had promoted the building of information pages on the internet, as well as the upgrade of content of the pages on the provincial and city state offices that enterprises have often been using.

She noted that the State offices had invested 2 million USD per year in the training of human resource for the SMEs, and policies were applied step-by-step to ensure more support from specific sectors for SMEs, including training in human resource and policies on all kinds of tax.

However, Huong added, implementation of these policies remained limited and no standards were set for 80 percent of these policies, whose effects on the enterprises could therefore not be measured.

Policy implementation was limited to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and was not adjusted to the scale of different modes of enterprise, she noted.

"Implementation of these policies remains slow," Huong remarked. "For instance, information on support policies has been released to media for quite some time, but enterprises have yet to actually enjoy the support."

Huong cited a lack of connection among the policies that has made it difficult for the SMEs to receive support.

The report cited four reasons for this situation. First, six of the eight groups of support policies were not suitable to enterprises. Second, the policies were in conflict with the laws of various sectors.

Third, no breakthroughs were achieved in the implementation of these policies, and co-ordination among concerned ministries, sectors, provinces and cities was weak.

Fourth, the ability of State offices in the provinces and cities to provide support remained poor, and numerous departments of planning and investment had yet to set up a division that would take charge of supporting the enterprises.

Also, SMEs had not tried to approach concerned government agencies regarding the policies and updated themselves with enough information about those policies, Huong said.

The enterprises often had a short-term strategy for production and business and had not paid attention to reform and the raising of competitive ability among them.

Huong said the department recommended that the State management offices improve the business environment and build on specific policies.

Associations of enterprises should be a bridge between enterprises and the State management offices to improve efficiency in the implementation of these policies, she added.

Pham Thi Thu Hang, General Secretary of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), said the policies had been partly successful in providing needed support to SMEs, but this was unfair to foreign-invested and State-owned businesses.

Complicated administrative procedures were still a challenge for the SMEs, and the support policies for SMEs had lacked synchronism, Hang added.

She urged the State to have specific support policies for SMEs but to refrain from excessively prioritising them.-VNA