Improving the business environment and strengthening entrepreneurship in Belarus are the main goals of two advisory programmes on private sector development, launched jointly by the European Union and the World Bank Group on 31 January.
“We aim to achieve concrete benefits for Belarusian enterprises by promoting sector competitiveness reinforcement initiatives, and by ensuring capacity building of various agencies including the Fund of Financial Support to Entrepreneurship, the National Agency for Investment and Privatisation, as well as the Public-Private Partnerships Center,” said Andrea Wiktorin, Head of the European Union Delegation to Belarus.
An EU-funded €4.8 million technical assistance programme, which will be implemented by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, aims to enhance private sector growth in Belarus. Under the project, the World Bank will provide advice in such areas as small- and medium-sized enterprise development, investment attraction and retention, and preparation for a paperless trade system.
“The World Bank will provide advice, among other things, on mobilising private finance for public infrastructure and services (Public-Private Partnerships) based on global best-practices,” said Alex Kremer, World Bank Country Manager for Belarus. “Private finance, supported by robust investment agreements, is highly important for providing Belarusians with adequate infrastructure.”
The new IFC Belarus Competition Advisory Programme, cost-shared by the European Union and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, will bring about government expertise in reducing compliance costs for businesses. This will be achieved by de-regulation and improvement in regulatory governance and reduction of private sector costs related to conformity assessment and certification of goods traded internationally.
“Today, we launch a new IFC programme to help enhance Belarus’ national competition policies, and to infuse competition principles in regulatory reforms to boost the country’s private sector growth,” said Rolf Behrndt, IFC Global Practice Manager for Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation in Europe and Central Asia. “This builds upon our previous work in helping simplify business regulations and improve the environment for doing business in the country. In the near term, we will focus on select priority sectors of the economy to identify regulatory constraints and help draw a roadmap for designing pro-competition market regulations. This work is part of our broader efforts in Belarus to support private sector development, create jobs and drive long-term economic growth.”
Over the last decade, Belarus has advanced significantly in reforming its basic business regulations. However, numerous improvements have not led to a noteworthy increase in the private sector and in small and medium enterprises. As such, both projects aim over the long-term to ensure economic policies and practices help attract direct investment and stimulate market development, for the benefit of all Belarusians.
SMEs in Belarus also benefit from a range of EU-funded financial and advisory tools provided under the EU4Business initiative. These aim to provide small companies with access to finance, provide business advice or technical assistance, and support female entrepreneurship. Tools include the EBRD Advice for Small Businesses programme, and the European Fund for South East Europe (EFSE), providing loans to SMEs.