The development of the country's small and medium business entities is one of its economic priorities. Various support measures are being implemented for this purpose. At present, one of the major goals is to ensure the development of entrepreneurial activity in liberated territories. During the program 'Economic Zone,' telecasted within the framework of a joint project of the State Tax Service and ATV Channel, Orkhan Mammadov, Chairman of the Small and Medium Business Development Agency (KOBİA) under the Ministry of Economy, spoke about the work that has been done in this area:
- Last week, our country celebrated Entrepreneur's Day. How did entrepreneurs mark the Day of Entrepreneurs this year? We would ask you to share your impressions.
- It has been for seven years since April 25th has been celebrated as Entrepreneurs' Day in Azerbaijan. This date was chosen 20 years ago, in 2002, during a meeting of the nationwide leader Heydar Aliyev with entrepreneurs. Referring back to history, we can see that at this meeting the nationwide leader outlined the prospects for the future development of entrepreneurship. The footage clearly shows the great interest and hope exhibited by entrepreneurs at that meeting. This is because, in 2002, the country was experiencing full economic stability. It underwent an economic revival. Entrepreneurs looked to the future with great hope. At the time, they were very optimistic about meeting with the nationwide leader. Twenty years have passed since that meeting. Currently, the development of entrepreneurship represents one of the government’s major priorities. Domestic and foreign investments are already flowing into our country. Last week, we celebrated Entrepreneurs' Day. You might know that in previous years, we postponed this event because of the pandemic. This time, we held a conference devoted to 'The Role of Entrepreneurship in Economic Development.' The Minister of Economy and Minister of Labor and Social Protection spoke to entrepreneurs as special guests of honor, turning Entrepreneurs' Day into a very solemn celebration. The address by the entrepreneurs
once again emphasized that they support the social and economic development strategy outlined by the head of the state, and in the future will actively work to increase the competitiveness of production, doing everything possible to enhance the prestige and all-around development of our country. On the same day, the President signed a decree awarding a group of individuals and entrepreneurs for their entrepreneurial achievements. Both local and foreign entrepreneurs received awards. We took this as another indicator of the attention and care given by Mr. President to the development of entrepreneurship.
On the same day, the “KOB Fest” fair and exhibition took place. About 100 micro, small, and medium-sized businesses had the opportunity to present their products to a wide audience. The fair won the great sympathy of both locals and visitors to our country. Entrepreneurs also showed great interest in it.
- We would like you to provide information about the services and support mechanisms that the government currently provides to entrepreneurs.
- Needless to say, there is a number of support mechanisms the government provides to develop entrepreneurship, including both financial and other mechanisms of support. I should note that 99% of the country's business entities represent small and medium-sized businesses. In 2021, the total turnover of microenterprises increased by 31%; small enterprises' turnover grew by 79%, and the turnover of medium enterprises increased by 139%. The government provides various services to businesses, especially to micro-,
small, and medium-sized enterprises. Let me point out some of them here. Many of these services are provided by the Agency for the Development of small and medium businesses. Through various platforms, entrepreneurs can regularly take advantage of state support mechanisms and take advantage of business-related innovations. The Agency provides them to entrepreneurs through SME development centers located in 21 cities and regions throughout the country. The services of SME development centers are absolutely free of charge as the government covers all the expenses related to their activities. In 2021, approximately 23,000 SMEs received almost 1,600 training and consulting services from the centers. More than 3,000 SMEs participated in over 200 training courses conducted during the first three months of 2022. Consulting services were provided to 600 entrepreneurs. About 90 entrepreneurs received support in developing business plans. We created an online platform containing 180 training videos covering
business activities and presented it to entrepreneurs. One of our priorities has to do with protecting the entrepreneurs' interests. Mr. President has repeatedly stated that sometimes, the development of entrepreneurship suffers from informal or other kinds of interference. Entrepreneurs have to work transparently so that they are not hindered by any organizations or local executive bodies. We try to play the role of a bridge in this area to ensure that entrepreneurs do not encounter problems but can use the services of
government agencies to eliminate emerging problems.
As for SME Houses, the services they provide to businesses undergo improvement while the scope of their services is expanded. SME Houses already operate using the principle of 'one-stop-shop' in Khachmaz and Yevlakh districts. Next month, we expect one to open in Baku. To date, 11 state bodies and 7 private companies provide necessary services at these houses. To date, SME houses have already provided about 90,000 services. A digital SME House is in the process of development.
I believe that once it is up and running, entrepreneurs will be able to use government services in a more flexible manner. Another type of assistance will be provided to entrepreneurs through a mechanism for supporting sales. By supporting the access of entrepreneurs' goods and services to local and foreign markets, we increase SMEs' share of non-oil exports and support the promotion of the Made in Azerbaijan brand. We create conditions for small and medium enterprises to participate in various local and foreign exhibitions. This is a free-of-charge activity. There, SMEs can present their products to a wider audience. In the first quarter of 2022, about 80 SMEs were able to promote their products to local and international markets.
- The liberation of our lands from occupation following the 44-day war defined a new vision: the new perspective for the economy of the country as a whole. It has to do with the reintegration of these lands into the country's economy. Will the entrepreneurs wishing to open a business in Karabakh apply to KOBİA? In what areas of activity do they apply most often?
The applications began to come in immediately after the end of the war. The Agency has been accepting such applications since December 2020. To date, KOBİA has received about 1,100 applications from entrepreneurs who want to open businesses in liberated territories. As we analyze them, we can see that, for the most part, they mainly refer to such areas as trade, services, construction, industry, agriculture, and tourism. Foreign entrepreneurs filed about 400 applications. Most of them were lodged by representatives of Turkey. The applicants include businesspeople from the USA, European countries, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, China, South Korea, Indonesia, and other countries. In the aftermath of the war, our entrepreneurs became very actively involved in the activities carried out in liberated territories and provided donations and offerings. As is well known, entrepreneurs made appropriate donations to various funds. With the support of the Agency, the economic potential of Karabakh is demonstrated at various exhibitions,
events, and in foreign countries. Right after the war, Karabakh's potential was demonstrated at an exhibition in Turkey. We always use this approach at various exhibitions
as it is one of our major priorities. Investment activities are widely encouraged in liberated territories. Meanwhile, the issues related to the implementation of business projects have been included in KOBİA's main strategic agenda for the coming period.
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