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Financing and red tape major problems of Slovenian SMEs

Luxembourg, 19 November - A large scope of shadow economy, late payments and various types of taxes are a big burden on businesses in Slovenia, according to a report on the implementation of the Small Business Act for Europe.

The report, presented at the SME Assembly in Luxembourg on Thursday, calls for enhancing alternative financing mechanisms and making administrative procedures less complicated as urgent measures.

Slovenia is close to EU average in most of the areas covered by the Small Business Act. But some points are problematic.

Despite "recent efforts and improvements", Slovenia has still not reached EU average in terms of access to financing so the country scored the third worst result in this area in the EU.

Almost 40% of respondents in Slovenia last year reported a deterioration in access to public financial support, including guarantees. This is eight percentage points more than a year before or nearly double the EU average.

Slovenia also ranks among the bottom four EU countries by access of bank loans to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Some 26% of these had their requests for loans rejected by banks or were offered credit under unacceptable terms last year, which compares to 17% in the whole EU.

To tackle the problem, the report advises boosting alternative financing mechanisms such as public-private partnerships, or forming an independent fund to evaluate credit rating of SMEs that are not approved loans.

Slovenia is also below EU average in the responsiveness of public administration; 75% of SMEs in Slovenia believe complicated administrative procedures hamper their operations (EU average is at 63%).

Slovenia is moreover one of five EU nations with the highest burden of red tape such as various permits, regulations and reporting, although the report concedes progress has been made in this respect since 2009.

The country is advised to make improvements in reducing red tape and administrative barriers, the combat against corruption and making the public administration more effective.

Slovenia is also urged to complete the upgrade of infrastructure needed for a comprehensive transition to e-procurement. The country trails at the bottom by the proportion of SMEs submitting their bids via an electronic system of public procurement.

On the up side, Slovenia has a higher percentage of SMEs which participate in public contracting and they also get a higher share of the total value of public contracts compared with EU average.

SMEs generate 63% of the value added and some 73% of all jobs in Slovenia. Their value added increased by almost 10%, while the number of employees fell by 7% over the past five years.

Projections are that the value added of SMEs is to rise by about 3%, while employment is to drop by 0.6% between 2014 and 2016.

The Small Business Act is an EU initiative in support of small and medium-sized businesses comprising sets of policy measures in various fields. Reviews on progress in the act's implementation are released annually.

Aside from red tape and poor access to financing, Goran Novkovič of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) also cited non-performing claims to SMEs as a problem, as he talked with the STA in Luxembourg.

"It would make sense to set up a bad bank for small businesses as the band bank has also proved to be a good solution for large companies despite misgivings," Novković said.

He also suggested setting up an early warning system to help entrepreneurs facing problems back on track. Those who coped with difficulties once as a rule break out of a crisis stronger.

Novkovič does not think the Slovenian government is sufficiently aware of the importance of entrepreneurship. In support of his claim he cites the planned tax reform, which he calls an "anti-reform".

GZS calculations show the reform would mean EUR 70m more tax for business a year due to abolishment or reduction of various tax credits for investment and research and development.

He also regrets a decline in entrepreneurial intentions among the population since the crisis kicked in. "Finding a cushy job in the public administration is unfortunately a bigger value in Slovenia," he says.

ep/zm
© STA, 2015