The Economic Pillar of the “SDGs for All” Platform held an exhibition and panel discussion entitled “It’s time for SMEs!” on March 2nd, 2023, where representatives of small and medium-sized enterprises, state institutions important for the development of the SME sector, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia, and others interested in the further development of the SME sector, discussed what is needed for this part of the economy to continue to grow and contribute even more strongly to the sustainable development of Serbia. The event was organized in cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia, and held at its premises.
As part of the exhibition, domestic SMEs were presented, those with the leading potential to contribute to the sustainable development of Serbia in the next decade. The event was a follow-up of the previous successful SME100 Expo conference, organized by CEVES in early June 2022 in Kragujevac.
The event was attended by Mihailo Vesović, Director of the Sector for Strategic Analysis, Services and Internationalization at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia, Slavica Savičić, State Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Tatjana Matić, Director of the Development Fund, Vesna Vučetić, Director of the Credit and Guarantee Sector at the Development Fund, Jelisaveta Lazarević, Vice-Dean and Associate Professor at the FEFA Faculty, Dušan Šarković, owner and director of DMV Control Systems from Niš, and Zorica Ilić, Financial Director of Dmiteh Company from Gornji Milanovac. The discussion was moderated by Marijana Radovanović, Development Advisor at CEVES.
In the introductory part of the event, Mihailo Vesović, Director of the Sector for Strategic Analysis, Services and Internationalization at the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia, stated that “our task is to help the small ones and those who do not have their internal resources and thus need the support of organizations such as the Serbian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other institutional partners”. He emphasized that this is a job that must have a broad front of activists who are willing to help and draw attention to the problems faced by small and medium-sized enterprises.
Nemanja Šormaz, Director of CEVES, emphasized that there is a need for the focus of the state, but also of the whole society, on creating an encouraging business environment, and the cessation of the practice by which SMEs, administratively and in other ways, are discriminated against large enterprises. He drew attention to the fact that today we have dozens, with the potential to have hundreds of hidden champions, competitive primarily due to their knowledge, skills, and innovativeness in foreign markets, capable of pulling forward the rest of the economy and local communities. It is necessary to give preference, even some sort of supportive discrimination, to small and medium-sized enterprises, as is the case in the EU. The state has shown the capacity to provide such an environment for foreign direct investment, and it is capable and obliged to provide the same to its small and medium-sized enterprises.
Tatjana Matić, Director of the Development Fund, praised the idea of presenting the efforts of small and medium-sized enterprises and emphasized that it is of special significance that the event is held within the “SDGs for All” Platform, as there is no real economic success without such direction. She also pointed out that the goal of the Fund is to be even more accessible and open to small businesses through new sources of financing, such as the Green Agenda, which will be in focus for the next five to ten years (companies will be able to apply for financing of solar panels or environmentally sustainable construction).
Regarding the issue of restoring tax credit as well as additional instruments for export security, Slavica Savičić, State Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, said that all initiatives are welcome and that analyses will be conducted by the Ministry and the decisions will be made accordingly. The panelists agreed that small and medium-sized enterprises form the backbone of the domestic economy and that they have an immeasurable contribution to both Serbia’s export and employment, especially in areas where foreign companies have no interest in reaching, thus contributing strongly to reducing inequalities and depopulation of Serbia.