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NEW FUNDING EARMARKED FOR BALKAN SMEs


Washington:
Sarajevo:

J. Esguerra
Phone: (202) 458-5204
Fax: (202) 974-4384
E-mail: jesquerra@ifc.org
C. Miller
Phone:  (387) 33 440 293
Fax: (387) 33 440 108
E-mail: cmiller3@ifc.org


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.
       
Capacity 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.
       
Improving 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 countries.