SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina, September
21, 2000 ---The International Finance Corporation today launched a
five-year, US$33 million effort to bolster the small and medium enterprises
(SMEs) that help create jobs and reduce poverty in the Balkans. The Balkan
Enterprise Facility, funded by IFC in partnership with donor countries,
will strengthen SMEs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, the Former Yugoslav
Republic of Macedonia, and Kosovo.
Support of small business has become a top priority for IFC since it is
SMEs that can provide a stable source of income and skills development
in regions racked by high unemployment and poverty. In the Balkans, SMEs
are impeded by poor business climate, lack of access to capital, insufficient
training programs, and inadequate technology and knowledge resources. The
Balkan Enterprise Facility attempts to address these problems, drawing
on IFC's experience in establishing and managing similar SME initiatives
in the former Soviet Union, Sub-Saharan Africa, Vietnam, Cambodia and the
Lao People's Democratic Republic, and other regions.
The facility will work with local SMEs directly as well as with other support
organizations and specialists from the region to improve the difficult
operating environment that small business faces in the four target economies.
The Balkan Enterprise Facility will operate on a commercial basis in the
local economy for the services and programs that it offers. It aims to
spin off its services to local businesses within five years. Establishing
commercial operations from the start will build the foundation for the
future sustainability of these spin-off service firms.
The facility's services will include:
· Pre- and
post-investment services: Companies preparing for market-based competition
can receive help writing business plans and raising financing, as well
as subsequent management assistance.
building: Since most local SMEs operate at a severe competitive
disadvantage, cut off from modern market economies, the facility will develop
training, technical assistance, and knowledge-sharing programs; and strengthen
industry associations, women entrepreneurs, and consultants.
the business environment: Local SMEs need a simple, supportive,
predictable and transparent environment in order to attract foreign investment.
The facility will promote reform of legislation and taxation, especially
for property rights and registration, collateral and mortgages, business
law and corporate governance, labor issues, and environment.
"The Balkan Enterprise Facility is at the core of the World Bank Group's
mandate of reducing poverty, and it reflects IFC's mission of bringing
prosperity through private sector development," said Peter Woicke,
Executive Vice President of IFC. "The facility will be important in
helping individual entrepreneurs, but it will be just as important in shaping
the business environment in a way that will help enterprises in the Balkan
region to thrive."
The Balkan Enterprise Facility has headquarters in Sarajevo with offices
in Banja Luka, Pristina, Skopje, and Tirana. The facility is funded by
IFC, Austria, Canada, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden,
Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. It is headed by Mariann Kurtz who
was formerly a principal consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and
has nine years of experience in the transition economies of Central and
Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The facility will operate under
the overall direction of the World Bank Group SME Department, headed by
Harold Rosen. The department is a joint IFC/World Bank unit that combines
both transactional and policy expertise in supporting SMEs in developing