The FINANCIAL — The European Union (EU) is providing a major boost to small businesses in Belarus, with a pledge of €6 million in additional funds over a period of four years for the EBRD’s Advice for Small Business (ASB) programme.
Over 200 domestic small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will benefit from the expert advice and know-how available through the programme, which will concentrate its efforts on reaching out to companies in rural areas of Belarus, according to EBRD.
In addition, fresh funds are expected to allow the EBRD to work with selected state-owned enterprises, facilitating their restructuring and possible privatisation.
The EU support, which comes under the EU4Business* initiative, has received the endorsement of the Belarusian authorities.
Andrea Wiktorin, EU Ambassador to Belarus, said: “Today the EU is happy to provide another €6 million for the benefit of Belarusian small businesses. The EU is one of the major shareholders of the EBRD. And we rely largely on our partners from the EBRD to implement this updated programme, Advice for Small Businesses in Belarus, expanding it to regions and districts of Belarus.”
Minister of Economy of Belarus Vladimir Zinvovsky, who hosted the signing of the agreement, said: “The government of Belarus endorses the EBRD’s efforts, supported by the European Union, to develop the private sector of Belarus. The 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 our private sector champions.”
EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti said: “We would like to thank the EU for making these resources available. They will provide support to many Belarusian private businesses, which are playing an increasingly important role in the domestic economy.”
The new Advice for Small Business programme will build on the EBRD’s extensive experience in Belarus of providing advisory services (through local consultants and international industry advisors) and finance since the beginning of the Bank’s activities there in 2012. Over the period from 2012-16, the EBRD supported more than 250 SMEs under the ASB, helping beneficiary firms to create more than 1,500 jobs and increase their turnover by an average of 63 per cent.
Since the start of its operations in Belarus in 1992, the EBRD has invested almost €1.9 billion in some 90 projects in various sectors of the country’s economy.
*The EU4Business initiative fosters the development of the private sector by helping SMEs acquire new skills, become more competitive, access more finance and increase their exports to new markets, including the EU. The initiative covers all of the EU Eastern Partnership countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. It also supports the government with policy reform in order to improve the business climate.