Western Balkans countries and Turkey: improving the potential of SMEs and women

Although further progress is still needed, the countries of the Western Balkans and Turkey are improving the potential of their SMEs, which employ over 70% of people in the business sector and generate almost 65% of value added in these seven economies.

These are the key findings of a study launched by the OECD together with the ETF at a dedicated event in Sarajevo on 7 May. ‘The SME Policy Index: Western Balkans and Turkey 2019’ reviews the implementation of the ten principles of the Small Business Act for Europe (SBA) in the seven EU pre-accession countries, and highlights opportunities and challenges for unleashing their potential. The conclusions centre around the following topics:

  • Entrepreneurial learning: School-enterprise cooperation remains ad-hoc, and it depends on the initiative of teachers and directors. Practical entrepreneurial experiences for young people remain under-developed, and confined to mini-company approaches.
  • Women’s entrepreneurship: The issue is high on policy agendas of all economies, although the availability, quality and accessibility of statistical data disaggregated by sex remains weak.
  • Bankruptcy and second chance: All economies have functioning insolvency laws that govern formal procedures for financially distressed companies; however, mechanisms to prevent bankruptcy and second chance policies for failed entrepreneurs are almost inexistent.
  • Institutional and regulatory framework for SME policy making: All economies have undertaken regulatory reform efforts to simplify legislation. However, public private consultations are carried-out in an inconsistent way, despite formal requirements to do so.
  • Standards and technical regulations: Most governments have renewed their strategic documents for adopting quality infrastructure legislation and transposing the EU directives. Nevertheless, education in standardisation is almost non-existent.
  • Enterprise skills: across all economies, there’s a growing recognition of the need for more developed intelligence on SME manpower. This needs to be accompanied by adequate training  on green and digital economy, and tailored training on the different phases of SMEs’ development (pre-starts, start-ups, upstarts, new- starts, restarts)
  • Innovation policy for SMEs : Most economies have introduced a mix of financial instruments to support firms’ innovation and technology development. Nevertheless, the infrastructure to link industry and academia remains limited.
  • Internationalisation of SMEs: In all countries trade financing support mechanisms for exporting SMEs are widely available. Nevertheless, programmes to encourage SMEs’ uptake of e-commerce

On the next day, the ETF’s director, Cesare Onestini, has stressed the role of women entrepreneurial skills at the EBRD 2019 Annual Meeting and Business forum, in an event focusing on gender and economic inclusion.

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