The European Union continues to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Belarus, and is set to provide 6 million euros in additional funds as part of the EBRD’s Advice for Small Business (ASB) programme.
“EU funds and assistance are important to Belarus because they facilitate access to modern EU know-how and technology,” Andrea Wiktorin, EU Ambassador to Belarus, tells Emerging Europe. “Indeed, the slogan of the ASB programme is ‘We know how!’. High-quality local and international expertise save time and money for SMEs, transfer relevant commercial and technical know-how, introduce quality management and certification, and in the end increase productivity and create jobs,” Wiktorin said.
Over the last four years the ASB programme has already helped more than 200 Belarusian SMEs.
“Among the latest example is the help we have given to the Belarusian telematics producer Mechatronics, to enhance the effectiveness of its business processes, optimising the organisational structure and increasing labour productivity by 34 per cent per year. Then there is Nakhodka Polesya, a tulip farm from a rural area in the Ivanovo district of the Brest region, which we helped to automate its business processes and optimise operating expenses and reporting time, increasing sales twice over while considerably cutting costs,” Wiktorin adds.
According to the EBRD, the Belarusian economy is founded on large state-owned enterprises. SMEs account for around a fifth of GDP, below the EU average, and it has been a challenge for small privatised companies to flourish. Initiatives such as the ABS programme are focused on improving access to finance and foreign markets, building business skills and encouraging entrepreneurship.
The EU’s support has already received the endorsement of the Belarusian authorities. Vladimir Zinvovsky, Minister of the Economy, who hosted the signing of the new agreement, said: “The government of Belarus endorses the EBRD’s efforts, supported by the European Union, to develop the private sector in Belarus. This advisory programme has been instrumental in nurturing a number of small and medium-sized companies, enabling them to improve their efficiency and, in some cases, contributing to their transformation into private sector champions.”