SMEs and Entrepreneurship: The Way Forward to Job Creation and Growth


“Bologna+10” High-level Meeting

SMEs and Entrepreneurship: The Way Forward to Job Creation and Growth


Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General

Paris, 17 November 2010

Secretary of State Lefebvre, Minister Laruelle, Mr. Thunell,

Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a pleasure to welcome you to the OECD “Bologna + 10” Meeting on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurship.

The theme of your High-level Meeting is “innovative SMEs and entrepreneurship, better approaches to financing and green growth”. These are major challenges for policy makers around the world. Today more than ever, we need to harness the potential of SMEs and entrepreneurs in the fight against unemployment, social exclusion and poverty.

Responding to the crisis and moving forward

The OECD is releasing its Economic Outlook tomorrow.  Our preliminary assessment shows that the pace of the global economic recovery has slowed since earlier this year. In the meantime, public debt in most advanced countries is set to reach all-time highs and unemployment remains at unacceptable levels. 

In these stormy times, SMEs require special attention as key contributors to employment creation across the globe. They account for approximately 99% of all enterprises and two thirds of employment in OECD countries and 97% of all jobs in emerging economies.

Ten years after Bologna, it is unfortunate to see that the crisis affected SMEs and entrepreneurs severely. Most SMEs are suffering from a drastic drop in demand for goods and services. Credit tightening has been severe in spite of the easing of monetary conditions by central banks.  Interest rate spreads have risen significantly, thereby partially offsetting the effects of easy monetary policy. Credit tightening and the demand shock have resulted in a large number of bankruptcies and severe job losses.

Overcoming the present difficult conditions for SMEs and entrepreneurs is crucial in our efforts to support the recovery and restore employment dynamics. Effective short-term measures and longer term structural reforms are necessary to improve the financial and business environment supportive to SMEs.  At the same time, policymakers need to ensure a level playing field of regulatory and legal frameworks for all enterprises irrespective of their size. And well targeted and efficient structural policies are required to overcome specific market failures affecting new and small firms.

But this is not enough. Governments are looking for new models of growth and sustainable development.

After the crisis, we need to accelerate the redeployment of resources to new activities so that growth is greener and more knowledge-based.  This is an opportunity where SMEs can play a major role. But they need to be given the opportunity to compete. This includes the need to have access to appropriate types of financing structures and facilities. They also need to benefit from a level playing field on public procurement. 

Entrepreneurship needs to be promoted as it is also a formidable channel for economic and social progress. Inclusive and sustainable growth requires the promotion of entrepreneurial skills and opportunities across societies. In this regard, it is particularly important to engage young people and women, who have been badly hit by the crisis.  The development and diffusion of entrepreneurial skills will be an important theme of the forthcoming OECD Skills Strategy.  It will help governments provide concrete recommendations to achieve “lifelong employability” and improve the match of supply and demand of skills.

The OECD commitment to SMEs and Entrepreneurship Policies

Ten years ago, the 1st OECD Ministerial Conference on SMEs, held in Bologna, opened a new path of knowledge and commitment to SME and Entrepreneurship Policies. Over the last decade, the OECD Bologna Process has promoted global dialogue and co-operation and has reinforced the SME policy agenda in a number of areas.

The OECD is leading this work in co-operation with other international organisations. We are working closely with non-member countries, particularly with the major emerging economies. Our Working Party on SMEs and Entrepreneurship, the host of today’s event, has played a pioneering role in this respect, with the Bologna Charter on SME Policies, adopted by 48 OECD member and non member economies in 2000. This Charter provides reference for efficient SME policies and encourages dialogue and global cooperation.

In fact, policy coordination is becoming increasingly important in this field. This was recognised at the Pittsburgh summit of the G20, where leaders committed to improving access to financial services across business and societal groups and identified SMEs as a key priority. The OECD is supporting the G20 process on many policy areas, including on taxes, development, employment and investment. And we look forward to working with our French colleagues as they shape the G20 agenda, including on SME policy issues.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Let me wish you success in your discussions over the next two days. Your guidance will contribute to shaping our work on SME and entrepreneurship policies for years to come.

In conducting this work, we hope to build on the existing partnerships between our governments, between multi-lateral organisations, the business sector, and civil society. I am confident that together we will design the right policies to enable SMEs to build a robust, sustainable recovery and ensure better lives for our citizens around the world.