Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play a very important role in Vietnam’s economy. They produce approximately 40 percent of the country’s GDP and provide employment to approximately 50 percent of workers. Although a vital part of the economy, many SMEs struggle with credit access in Vietnam and are unable to invest in loans that will aid them with their finances.
Access to loans is important to SMEs, especially those just starting up, and many of them need this option to survive in the market. Many SMEs require money from loans to invest in new machinery and technology to become more efficient, stay competitive and make a profit.
SMEs struggle to stay competitive not only because of credit access in Vietnam, but also because of well-funded, larger businesses. This is where one of the issues with access to credit comes into play. Large enterprises are not only preferred by foreign investors, but also by local banks. With a better guarantee to make a profit, banks prefer providing loans to these steadier businesses instead, believing that most SMEs are too much of a risk.
It may come as a surprise that approximately 70 percent of SMEs technically have credit access in Vietnam. The issue arises in the fact that many of the businesses taking out these loans face other difficulties in the access of these funds, and most would prefer not to. SMEs often pay up to 10 percent interest or even higher on loans, while larger enterprises only pay around 5 percent at the highest. Banks also tend to require fixed collateral for the loan, such as land.
Another issue regarding credit access is that of gender. Traditional gender roles in Vietnam often affect a bank’s decision in providing a loan, worrying that women will make less profit than a man would, or simply denying access because they are female. In addition, most females do not own land to provide the fixed collateral. This is an obstacle for females in large businesses, but especially for those in SMEs.
To combat this, some peer to peer platforms, crowdfunding for businesses by investors, have appeared in Vietnam. Although this gets around stricter banks, allowing loans to be given to what the bank would consider high-risk businesses as well as more equal opportunities for both male and female business owners, it still is not enough. Not only do the current platforms not have enough willing investors providing loans to SMEs, but they also still struggle to compete with large enterprises that are well funded by the banks.
There is plenty of potential for SMEs to help improve the country’s economy and GDP, but credit access in Vietnam is preventing this from happening. In the future, the government may possibly enforce better rules to allow more SMEs to flourish, but until then, investment is one of the few ways SMEs can be funded with loans. The country simply needs more interested investors, both local and foreign.
– Keegan Struble