ECONOMY

Waiting time for small and medium-sized enterprises is over, says Dimitris Sioufas

The government said yesterday it will urgently promote measures in support of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with a view to bolstering their competitiveness. «Enterprises cannot wait,» Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas told a meeting of representatives of the European Commission, chambers and employers’ associations who met to discuss the European Charter for Small Enterprises at the ministry. Sioufas specified the measures would involve a major turn toward the funding of SMEs under European Union-subsidized investment programs, a reduction in the cost and time required for the licensing of manufacturing units, and the introduction of a new development framework. The European Charter for Small Enterprises, approved by EU leaders in June 2000, calls upon member states and the Commission to take action to support and encourage SMEs in key areas such as education and training for entrepreneurs; cheaper and faster start-up initiatives; improving online access; getting more out of the single market; taxation and financial matters; strengthening the technological capacity of SMEs; making use of successful e-business models and developing top-class small business support; as well as developing more effective representation of SMEs’ interests at the EU and national levels. Sioufas said the ministry has already set up Investor Reception Centers and Business and Technological Development Centers, provides special incentives for the development of distribution and e-commerce networks, and promotes the funding of small firms through a guarantee fund (TEMPME), designed to overcome the obstacle of inadequate proof of their creditworthiness. At a separate meeting with Sioufas, the board of the Hellenic Bank Association (HBA) expressed full support for the work of TEMPME, and said they intend to cooperate closely with it to overcome delays in the implementation of its programs.