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The ‎EU4BUSINESS‬ Week kicked off on Monday 22 February. The week was full of events organised by the EU Delegation to Armenia and its partners. Each day expert presentations, round tables, or discussions were held with international experts and members of the business community.
During the EU4BUSINESS week, the “SME Policy Index: Eastern Partner Countries 2016” was presented. The project co-funded by the EU, OECD, ETF and EBRD, was introduced by the EU Ambassador, and the Armenian First Deputy Minister of Economy, on 23 February 2016.
ARS_6494The Head of the EU Delegation to Armenia, Ambassador Świtalski, underlined that, for the EU in Armenia, the main priority is to support private business: ‘Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are considered by us to potentially be the main engine for growth in Armenia and, at the same time, one of the main untapped potentials in Armenia. If you consider the level of entrepreneurship among Armenians, their intellectual capacity and creativity, and their involvement in SMEs – a lot of benefits can be brought to Armenia’s economy. These are difficult times in Armenia – there are many challenges to economic development. Therefore, it is strategically important that the EU works together with the Armenian government and other international organisations to support the development of SMEs. This index will act as a point of reference for the government to check whether the direction in which the country is going is right. We know that Armenia has made good progress in many areas. The other issue is whether this progress is meeting the expectations of Armenian people, in particular businessmen. Indeed, there is a perception gap: indexes are good as they show a good picture, but when you go and ask people, in particular young people who want to start new business, they say it could be better. I would agree. Therefore, lots still needs to be done. I am sure that together we can make progress, because the international community and organisations have a clear interest in a positive SME index for Armenia. Why is that? Well, when the foreign investors see that the SME index looks secure, they will feel more comfortable investing’.
ARS_6455During the event, the Armenian Deputy Minister of Economy, Garegin Melkonyan presented the SME policy index and its importance for Armenia: ‘The assessment monitors implementation progress for ten principles of the Small Business Act (SBA) for Europe, and measures convergence towards EU practices and standards. The SBA principles are designed to create a level-playing field for SMEs and to foster entrepreneurship and competitiveness. The SBA assessment provides policy makers with a detailed overview of SME policy performance and recommends improvements within each policy area. Moreover, it identifies strengths and weaknesses in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and support programmes, while comparing country progress with previous assessments. The 2016 assessment reveals significant, albeit uneven, progress. There are many directions and suggestions that should be implemented in Armenia, including SME development, which is key to strengthening economic competitiveness in Armenia. There are also strong and weak sides of SMEs in Armenia, which should be taken into consideration’.
After the opening remarks, Daniel Quadbeck, the Project Manager, introduced the SBA results for Eastern Partner countries, presented key messages of the assessment, and made suggestions for the future.