The OECD Eurasia Competitiveness Programme, Global Relations Secretariat (GRS), and the OECD LEED Trento Centre, Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs and Local Development (CFE) are co-organising a policy seminar to support SME competitiveness reforms in the Eastern Partner (EaP) region.
The aim of the seminar was to provide a forum for discussion and exchange of good practices in the area of SME policy making, with a focus on tools to promote SME internationalisation.
The countries of the region are currently struggling with serious economic challenges as a result of regional tensions, falling commodity prices and an economic slowdown in main trading partners. These developments have also revealed structural weaknesses in the economies, and highlighted the importance of strengthening economic competitiveness and diversification in the region.
Given this context, bolstering the region’s SMEs is more important than ever. With SME development acting as an engine for employment generation and sustained growth, they offer a significant opportunity for economic recovery in the short term and increased resilience over the medium to long term. Yet the potential of SMEs remains largely untapped in the region. Despite making up between 83 and 99% of all firms, they account for only about half of all employment and one-third of value-added. The vast majority of SMEs are subsistence micro-entrepreneurs operating in low-added-value sectors.
In 2014-2015, the countries of the region underwent a Small Business Act for Europe (SBA) assessment for the second time, which resulted in the publication of the SME Policy Index: Eastern Partner Countries 2016. The assessment reveals progress on the overall implementation of business environment reforms and institutional aspects of SME policy making in the region. However, targeted support measures are still needed to enhance SME competitiveness, innovation and internationalisation; while policy co-ordination, public private dialogue, and monitoring and evaluation of policies should also be strengthened.
The seminar focused on the facilitation of SME internationalisation as a key area of SME policy, as well as including a broader discussion of building blocks of successful SME competitiveness reforms, including policy co-ordination, public consultations, and monitoring and evaluation of policies. The seminar leveraged presentations from experts, identification of case studies and existing good practices in OECD countries, as well as interactive sessions allowing participants to exchange experiences, discuss common challenges, and think about practical applications.
The seminar brought together senior policy makers and private sector representatives from partner countries, alongside OECD and OECD member country experts.
For further information, please contact:
Stuart Thompson - Policy Analyst, OECD LEED Trento Centre for Local Development, Venice Office (Venice, Italy)