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EBRD committed to further supporting SME development in W. Balkans, Turkey

EBRD committed to further supporting SME development in W. Balkans, Turkey Source: EBRD.

SARAJEVO (Bosnia and Herzegovina), May 7 (SeeNews) – The potential of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Western Balkans and Turkey remains largely untapped, although the sector is critical to these economies, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said on Tuesday.

“SMEs are under-represented in international trade and their contribution to value added remains low as they have difficulties in moving or expanding into high-value added activities,” the EBRD said in a report presented at the bank's annual meeting in Sarajevo.

The bank also noted that the countries of the EU pre-accession economies (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey) are making progress in exploiting the potential of their SMEs, yet much remains to be done.

"We can offer solutions to local entrepreneurs to develop locally, as well as to [back those] who have dreams and ambitions beyond the region," Pierre Heilbronn, EBRD vice president policy and partnership, said during a discussion of the report.

“The EBRD is committed to supporting this process with a mix of investments and engagement in policy reforms. Our record total investment of more than 1.1 billion euro ($1.2 million) in the Western Balkans last year spurs us to do even more in the following years together with our partners, in particular the EU,” Heilbronn said in a press release.

Since the last assessment in 2016, the seven economies have made progress across a number of areas, the EBRD noted. The most significant improvements can be seen in the area of public services available to SMEs, including the roll-out of e-government services and easier registration, licensing and tax compliance procedures which greatly help reduce the administrative burden on small businesses.

“Public procurement procedures have been simplified which should make them more accessible to SMEs,” the EBRD noted, adding that there is further room for improvement, but this is a significant step toward a public procurement framework that supports greater participation by small businesses, allowing them to tap into this important market.

The report also noted that access to credit is improving in a number of economies in Western Balkans, including to SMEs.

“However, lending to small businesses remains subdued across large parts of the region. Bank lending is supported by government-sponsored financing or guarantee schemes and some economies have made efforts to improve their design in order to be more market and user friendly.”

The report called on regional governments to enhance regulatory conditions to improve SMEs competitiveness.

“Help SMEs further improve their productivity and to scale up,” the report recommended, adding that expansion of regional co-operation over SME development is also needed.

The report also recommended the systematic evaluation of support programmes for SMEs to guarantee efficiency and best use of public funds.

($ = 0.89326 euro)