ECONOMY

Banks apply for CSF SME project funds

Most commercial banks and a few cooperative ones responded to the Finance Ministry’s call to support projects by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that will be funded through the European Union’s Third Community Support Framework (CSFIII). SMEs are set to receive over 600 million euros through CSFIII to implement a variety of projects that will help them modernize production and distribution and boost productivity. The 19 commercial banks that submitted proposals are National, Commercial, Agricultural, EFG Eurobank, Alpha, Piraeus, ETBA, General, Bank of Attica, Aspis, NovaBank, Probank, Omega, First Business Bank, Cyprus, Hellenic, Citibank, and Hypovereinsbank. The 10 regional cooperative banks are from Crete, Evros, Ioannina, the Dodecanese, Trikala, Karditsa, Hania, Lesvos and Evia. Finance Ministry officials will evaluate the proposals and sign contracts with the chosen banks within the next 10 days, allowing SMEs to submit their own project proposals as soon as the end of the month. There is no limit as to the number of accepted bank proposals. The banks will act both as advisers to the SMEs, undertaking to provide information on project proposal drafting and submission and auditing of their expenses, and as the conduits of funding, both from the EU and the State. Almost all CSFIII projects involve «tripartite» funding, from the EU, the State and the private sector. The government has chosen this method in order to speed up the flow of funds to interested private firms and avoid delays caused by the state bureaucracy. As soon as their projects are accepted, SMEs must receive state funds within five days. Actually, the banks agree to provide the funds in return for a reimbursement by the State and the EU. They are also obliged to set aside a number of their branches for this job. Deputy Economy and Finance Minister Christos Pachtas, responsible for overseeing the flow of EU funds, said that accelerating private sector projects and actions was one of the government’s main priorities.