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French Version

EU hopes multi-million dollar grant will prop up small businesses in Lebanon

But official says reforms must be quick in coming
The European Union gave Lebanon on Friday a 17 million euro ($20.67 million) grant to support small and medium size enterprises.

The program, which be will carried out over a period of three years, aims at supporting the development of a friendly and enabling environment in which small and medium size businesses can thrive.

The agreement was signed by European Commission ambassador to Lebanon Patrick Renauld, Economy and Trade Minister Marwan Hamade and Minister of Industry Elias Skaff at the Grand Serail.

The Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) program will seek to establish a policy framework for SME, in order to create a more growth-conducive legislative and regulatory environment for businesses operating in Lebanon.

It also aims at supporting the development of a network of demand driven and professional business support services with strong ownership from Lebanese institutions such as the Chamber of Commerce.

"This activity will target existing and start-up SMEs. It will include, among other things, continued European support to ELCIM (Euro-Lebanese Center for Industrial Modernization), a business advisory organization created in 2002," a statement said.

The program will also provide additional financial resources to the existing loan guarantee scheme, Kafalat, to induce commercial banks into further commitment to SMEs with viable and high potential development projects.

Renauld said that the real objective behind the EU's program is to revitalize the economy, modernize the productive sector and accelerate Lebanon's integration with European market.

But the EU ambassador cautioned the government against any further procrastination in the implementation of reforms in public departments.

"Any delay in the reforms in the public sector will be seen as a waste of energy."

Renauld said that many Lebanese companies and firms complained during meetings at the Chamber of Commerce about the lack of transparency in many local institutions.

The ambassador also underlined the need to invest in vocational training in Lebanon.

Hamade noted that industrial plants employing up to five workers represent 88 percent of the workforce.

Beirut,07 27 2004
The Daily Star
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