Make Way for the ‘Small Fellow’

The first Forum for Small Businesses from regions of SCO and BRICS member-states took place in Ufa in October 2015. Azat Fazlyev, the Acting President of Bashkortostan’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce, has summed up some of the key proposals put forward by participants during the discussions.

The Forum for Small Businesses has become the first unique and effective integration platform fostering economic cooperation between businesses and regional authorities. The region-to-region format was proposed by Rustem Khamitov, Head of the Republic of Bashkortostan. At R2R meetings, regions have a chance to directly interact with one another. We, as organizers, tried to establish a live dialogue between businesses representing SCO and BRICS regions. Initially, we were expecting that the forum would attract around 500 participants. However, one week into the accreditation process, the number of registered delegates surpassed this mark. Ultimately, more than 1,600 delegates from 23 countries and 51 regions of Russia attended the forum.

Our platform for B2B negotiations was particularly popular, hosting nearly 100 meetings that led to the signing of cooperation agreements between corporations from Russia, China, and Kazakhstan.

Forum participants worked in different sections using the modern discussion panel format. Different platforms played host to lively discussions on the legislative support of small and medium businesses, while SCO and BRICS countries had a chance to share best regional legislative entrepreneurial practices.

Delegates also discussed financial and infrastructure support for small and medium businesses. In particular, they shared their own vision for the newly created state corporation tasked with supporting small and medium enterprises (SMEs). We helped our experts focus more on developing suggestions for how to improve the operations of this organization, aptly nicknamed the ‘Ministry of Entrepreneurship.’ One of the key proposals put forward by the participants was not to break down the well-established and effective infrastructure underlying the cooperation between regional development institutions. As a first step, a rigid vertical structure needs to be built based on the syndication of capabilities of the new state corporation and its regional branches so that the greatest emphasis can always be placed on the development of the regions. Small and medium businesses require access to financial resources and preferential debt financing instruments at an acceptable interest rate.

This procedure may be based on the Credit Guarantees Agency, but it should incorporate lessons learned so that regions will not be deprived of a chance to take part in federal programs again. An equally important factor for the long-term development of SMEs is a chance for small businesses to take part in state procurement programs. Experts from our panel offered to develop specialized programs to subsidize business education, as well as leasing and procurement contracts for state corporations.

The first forum for small and medium businesses from SCO and BRICS member-states adopted a resolution setting out key recommendations proposed by the delegates. All of them will be incorporated into the 2030 Development Strategy for Small and Medium Enterprises, the first draft of which has already been published on the RF Ministry of Economic Development website.

Prime Minister of Russia Dmitri Medvedev also commended the valuable experience and tangible results produced by the forum during the meeting of heads of governments of SCO member-states. Since the efficiency of this format has been agreed at the highest possible level, the Council of the Heads of Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to host the second forum for small businesses from regions of SCO and BRICS member-states in Ufa in 2016.

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