The FINANCIAL — The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is providing a €1.9 million loan to local broadcast operator Stereo+ Ltd, together with Georgia’s TBC Bank, to support the switch from analogue to digital broadcasting in Georgia. The European Union (EU) supports this transaction through a risk-sharing facility.
The digital switchover is critical in modernising the information technology and communications sector, which will help Georgia to meet EU standards. The use of digital broadcasting will make additional capacity available on freed-up frequencies. This will lead, in turn, to more advanced services and a more diverse and competitive market – two key goals in the establishment of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA).
The transaction is the first project under the EBRD-EU DCFTA Direct Support Facility for small and medium sized-enterprises (SMEs), which will help businesses improve product quality and service standards, access to new markets and more generally accelerate economic development, according to EBRD.
“Small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of a dynamic economy – this is the reason why the EBRD supports SMEs through its activities in Georgia,” said Francis Malige, EBRD Managing Director for Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. “This financing package opens new and long-term opportunities for local businesses. We are especially proud to sign this transaction on the first day of the EBRD Annual Meeting and Business Forum in Tbilisi.”
Gerhard Schumann-Hitzler, Director, Neighbourhood East, European Commission, added: “I am very happy to see that the European Union’s financial support to businesses in Georgia reaches the final beneficiaries. This is an encouraging sign for the small and medium-sized enterprises in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine that want to invest so they can fully benefit from the DCFTA agreements these countries have signed with the EU.”
Georgia signed an Association Agreement with the EU in 2014, which forms the basis of an ambitious reform agenda as well as the creation of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. The establishment of the DCFTA will create new trade opportunities and bring economic benefits to Georgia by offering businesses access to the EU’s single market – the largest in the world, EBRD said.
The EBRD and EU are also cooperating on DCFTA-related activities in Moldova and Ukraine, the two other eastern European countries that have signed Association Agreements with the EU. These activities are part of the larger DCFTA Facility for SMEs, which will unlock new investments for small and medium-sized enterprises in the three countries, largely from new loans by international financial institutions, such as the EBRD and the European Investment Bank (EIB).
The DCFTA Facility will boost trade between the EU and the three countries that have signed an Association Agreement. It will also increase foreign direct investments and transform the business environment in the long run, thereby stimulating growth and creating jobs. It provides SMEs not only with access to finance, including direct lending as well as loans through local partner banks, but also with the necessary know-how to grow their businesses. Furthermore, policy dialogue will aim at improving the business and investment climate in the three countries.
The EBRD is the largest institutional investor in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The EU is the largest donor providing grant resources to the EBRD to manage programmes and projects that directly benefit people across the three countries.