• English

14th International SME Conference

(Tel Aviv, 15-18 September 2003)

Statement by Mrs. Brigita Schmögnerová,
Executive Secretary

Mr. Ehmud Olmert, Vice Prime Minister, Government of Israel,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, I would like to extend my warmest welcome to Ministers in charge of SME policies, senior representatives of international organizations as well as all participants to the 14th International SME Conference. You have come together today in Tel-Aviv with one purpose in mind – to examine the role that SMEs play in the economy and society, the problems faced by them in a globalized world, and to try, collectively, to identify the best possible ways to promote and stimulate their development.

The globalisation of economic activity can affect SMEs in two ways. For some, it provides new opportunities for expansion and growth by taking advantage of international market opportunities. For others, growing economic globalisation means competitive challenges and threats that they may not be able to withstand without improving quality, cost competitiveness and management practices.

For the 3rd Millennium, there is a motto that the SME sector can take to heart, and that is, think globally - act locally. The majority of SMEs operate in a local framework and environment. Their customers are their neighbours and in the vicinity of their village/city/county/region. This is their strength and opportunity. However, they also have to act taking into consideration the influence of external factors, economic globalization and the particular stage of internationalisation of their line of business.

Changes in business organisation and style of management required to effectively adapt to globalised markets clearly pose considerable challenges to enterprises of all sizes. But this also suggests that public authorities, especially local ones, and those who assist and support enterprises need to re-appraise their own policies and the public services provided to them.

In the UNECE region, countries with transitional economies have made tremendous progress in transforming their economies to market-based ones. In fact, eight of these will be joining the European Union in 2004. These are the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia.

However, an unfavourable economic environment and inadequate framework conditions still prevail in many transitional economies of the UNECE region, impeding entrepreneurship and private sector development. In order to further facilitate the transition process in these countries, more attention will have to be paid to the creation of a more business friendly environment and better framework conditions, including good governance, to encourage the development of entrepreneurship and SMEs. These are vital for economic growth and the prosperity of nations. With this in mind, I kindly invite members of the World Association for Small and Medium Enterprises and the participants at this International Conference to take part in the UNECE Expert Meeting on Good Governance for SMEs to be held on 1-2 April 2004 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Israel’s SME Authority – ISMEA – on the occasion of its 10th anniversary. I wish Mr. Gideon Sagee, Chairman of ISMEA, and his staff much success in fulfilling the Authority’s mission not only for the benefit of the entrepreneurs in Israel, but through this organization also for transitional and emerging market economies.

The UNECE and the Government of Israel are committed to providing assistance for the development of entrepreneurship and SMEs to countries with transitional and emerging market economies. We have cooperated in organizing workshops and seminars for the benefit of these countries and I am convinced that such cooperation will be required in the future.

I wish this Ministerial Meeting and Conference great success. I am sure it will play an important and catalytic role in mobilizing various stakeholders concerned with the well-being and prosperity of entrepreneurs and SMEs worldwide.