Remarks by Angel Gurría
12 April 2019 - Washington, D.C.
(As prepared for delivery)
Dear Governor Marcel, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It has been a busy week in Washington! Finance Ministers, Central Bank Governors and many leaders from across the globe have gathered here to address the pressing economic challenges facing our economies. This is an excellent environment in which to launch the 2019 OECD Scoreboard on Financing SMEs and Entrepreneurs. Thank you to Governor Marcel for joining us today.
This year’s edition of the Scoreboard – the eighth in our flagship series – evaluates debt, equity, asset-based finance, and conditions for SME and entrepreneurship finance in 46 countries. It also provides an assessment of recent SME-related policy developments.
Let me report on some of its key findings.
Payment delays, bankruptcies and non-performing loans (NPLs) have continued to drop in a majority of Scoreboard countries. The median SME interest rate has declined for the seventh consecutive year. SME loan rejection rates have also fallen. In Chile, for example, they dropped from 41.4% in 2007 to 14.7% in 2015, and have remained stable since. In a majority of countries, fewer SMEs now identify access to finance as their main concern.
Second, while lending to SMEs increased moderately in 2017, there is significant variation among specific groups of countries.
In most middle-income countries, financial deepening and increased access to formal financial services have catalysed rapid loan growth over the past five years. In Turkey, for example, the stock of SME loans grew by 10% in 2017.
But in high-income countries, loan growth has been more sluggish. SMEs rely increasingly on self-financing or other external sources of finance. In the Netherlands, for instance, the stock of SME loans increased by less than 1% in 2017 in real terms.
And in countries where the economic recovery has been slower, there is still cause for concern. In Italy, for example, the stock of SME loans decreased by 17% between 2013 and 2017.
Volumes for factoring, leasing and hire purchases, venture capital and online alternative finance expanded significantly in 2017. For example, factoring volumes rose by 27% in Chile, and venture capital investments rose by 11% in the United States. When it comes to leasing and hire purchase activities, they increased by 18% in Australia, and by 16% in Italy and Korea. Lastly, online alternative financing doubled – and even tripled – in many countries.
This large-scale expansion of alternative instruments marks an important turning point in the diversification of SME financing sources and instruments, and can help SMEs become more resilient in the face of credit market volatility. But while the overall picture is positive, it masks persistent difficulties that some SMEs – particularly micro-enterprises, innovative ventures, start ups and young firms – face in accessing finance.
In line with the G20/OECD High Level Principles on SME Financing, an increasing number of countries have improved their regulatory frameworks and introduced targeted policies to support Fintech developments. For example, the Australian Government has introduced an enhanced regulatory “sandbox”, which allows more businesses to test a wider range of new financial products over a longer period. This approach reduces regulatory uncertainty, while preserving consumer security and financial stability.
Other countries have developed new measures or scaled up existing support for the venture capital industry, including by establishing or expanding public funds that co invest with private actors. In December 2017, the Canadian Government made CAD 400 million available for its new Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative (VCCI) to increase the availability of late-stage venture capital.
Policy support also remains strong for credit guarantees, the most widespread instrument to ease SMEs’ access to finance. Governments are increasingly focusing on the important issue of payment delays, which affects SMEs’ ability to manage their cash flow.
Let me make a final comment about Chile. Chile is a global leader in SME finance, notably through its credit guarantee system, actions to support the development of equity finance, and important initiatives to reduce payment delays. These efforts have enabled Chile to increase SME lending volumes at an annualised average of around 12% between 2013 and 2017. Chile is also at the forefront of global data collection efforts, with a rich and detailed database on SME finance indicators, including gender-specific data. So I want to congratulate Governor Marcel and the Chilean government for these achievements, and ask them to keep sharing their experience with the OECD.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
While SME finance developments have moved in the right direction over the last few years, we cannot afford to be complacent. Stagnant productivity, the digital transformation and the slowdown of global value chains are already creating risks for small businesses. We must help SMEs address these challenges, and enable them to seize emerging opportunities.
You can count on the OECD’s support to design, develop and deliver better SME policies for better lives! Thank you.