A joint meeting of the Working Group of the project for ‘Supporting the implementation and monitoring of Azerbaijan's SME roadmap’ and the SBA Public-Private Working Group took place in Baku on 6 June to discuss Azerbaijan’s newly established SME agency and its role in boosting SME development, as well as the launch of the third cycle of the Small Business Act for Europe (SBA) assessment. The meeting was organised by the OECD in the framework of the EU-funded project ‘EU4Business: From Policies to Action’.
SME agency and its role of boosting SME development
The Working Group of the project on ‘Supporting the implementation and monitoring of Azerbaijan's SME roadmap’ provided its members with an opportunity to discuss the roles and responsibilities of the recently established SME agency in supporting entrepreneurship development in Azerbaijan.
Nadir Adilov from the SME Agency outlined its key responsibilities stating that its main objective was to support entrepreneurs by providing them with non-financial and financial assistance. He said the Agency would provide support through regional offices, and there would be targeted programmes for start-ups and women entrepreneurs.
The meeting also heard from Giorgi Darchia from Enterprise Georgia, who highlighted the role that a centralised agency can play in bolstering entrepreneurship. He outlined Enterprise Georgia’s broad mandate supporting entrepreneurship, export promotion and investment attraction.
Representatives from the OECD presented areas on which newly established agency should focus, including the general co-ordination of support activities for SMEs and provision of high-quality services for existing and future entrepreneurs.
The second objective of the meeting was to launch the third cycle of the SBA Assessment. The Small Business Act for Europe is an overarching framework for the EU policy on SMEs that aims to improve the approach to entrepreneurship, simplify the regulatory and policy environment for SMEs, and remove the remaining barriers to their development.
The Ministry of Economy reported on recent policies and programmes to support SME development in Azerbaijan as identified by the SME Roadmap. In addition to the SME Agency, the government has also successfully established a credit guarantee fund, and a movable assets registry. The SME law is currently being finalised alongside other legislation to further simplify the operational environment for SMEs.
The OECD team presented the assessment framework and timeline for the third SBA assessment cycle, which aims to broaden the scope to allow for an evaluation of the overall business environment conditions for enterprises – with a particular focus on business integrity, competition and contract enforcement.
In addition, private sector perspectives on policy barriers and policy effectiveness will be taken into account to a greater extent, by holding private sector focus groups and encouraging active private sector contribution to working group meetings.
The Working Group gathered around 35 participants from the Ministry of Economy, Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Azerbaijan, business associations, Baku Business Training Centre, Ministry of Taxes, State Customs Committee, and other representatives from private and public sector.