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Brunei
Tuesday, September 27, 2022
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Tuesday, September 27, 2022
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    All eyes on inclusivity

    Danial Norjidi

    Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministers responsible for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) met on September 9 to 10 under the chairmanship of Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand Supattanapong Punmeechaow themed, ‘Inclusive Recovery of APEC MSMEs through the Bio-Circular-Green Economy (BCG) Model and High Impact Ecosystem’.

    “The meeting expressed concern over the shocks and disruptions following the COVID-19 pandemic, which have strained the global economic environment for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) especially their access to finance,” the chair’s statement said.

    The meeting emphasised the need to ensure that no one is left behind and all are safeguarded against future economic challenges, including by promoting broad-based and inclusive growth and addressing inequalities and barriers, with a particular focus on MSMEs, women, and others with untapped economic potential, such as people with disabilities, and those from remote and rural communities.

    It shared that the ministers will help small businesses participate in the global economy and improve the connectivity among APEC economies through digital resilience, which will help MSMEs flourish and contribute to the region’s recovery.

    The chair’s statement highlighted that members will promote inclusive, high-impact recovery in four priority areas.

    The first is accelerating BCG adoption. “Promoting the BCG model can support value creation for MSMEs’ products and services and create business opportunities for MSMEs while reinforcing ongoing global efforts to address climate change,” the statement said.

    “We continue to support MSMEs as they engage in BCG activities, such as the adoption of green technologies, the design and use of more circular packaging materials, uptake of environmental practices, and socially responsible investment, which may lead to a more sustainable and inclusive Asia-Pacific.

    “Large enterprises could facilitate capacity building and sharing expertise with MSMEs on responsible business conduct, BCG, and sustainability practices implementation.

    “Inclusive approaches to advance the BCG model should involve solutions from women-owned and -led MSMEs which play a critical role in addressing the climate crisis,” the statement added.

    A second priority area is inclusive digital transformation. The ministers recognised that MSMEs equipped with digital skills and tools can grow faster as they are able to reach more markets and customers.

    “In particular, women entrepreneurs, youth, and startups need increased access to resources, training, and other support to enable them to overcome barriers to participate and lead in the digital economy,” the statement said.

    Another priority area is financing and debt restructuring for MSMEs, with the statement saying, “We recognise that lack of access to finance can constrain MSME growth. MSMEs face challenges to borrowing funds because they are small, less diversified and may have weaker financial structures.

    “We encourage member economies to consider addressing, as appropriate, traditional lending constraints by introducing a credit enhancement scheme, credit mediation, other alternative funding options, such as venture capital, sustainable finance, angel investment, private equity, promoting financial literacy among MSMEs, addressing informality and improving MSMEs, particularly women-owned or -led, in access to financing.”

    The fourth priority area identified was coping with an evolving market landscape. “We embrace efforts to strengthen the competitiveness of MSMEs by improving the business environment for start-ups, fostering innovation, promoting participation in regional and global value chains (GVCs) and collaboration with large enterprises.

    “These include empowering women-led MSMEs and women entrepreneurs by facilitating improved access to markets and increasing their participation in alignment with the La Serena Roadmap for Women and Inclusive Growth,” the statement said.

    The ministers also recognise that MSME growth can be facilitated through participation in government procurement, and they encourage the continued promotion of high-standard, ethical business practices to support MSME access to opportunities.

    “We are aware of the problem lack of information and experience in the development of youth entrepreneurship; therefore, we urge APEC economies to pay due attention to the development of youth entrepreneurship in accordance with the priority area of the SME Working Group (SMEWG) Strategic Plan 2021-2024 in the sphere of improving business environment for start-ups and entrepreneurs.

    “This year, we commit to work together to ensure our economic and environmental policies are mutually supportive. With economic resilience at heart, we call for collective efforts towards an inclusive, speedy, and sustainable recovery for MSMEs,” added the statement.

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