Fabian Demicoli

Small Business Act: commitments are finally becoming actions, survey finds

For the very first time since its
adoption, policymakers at EU and national level are finally making progress on
the commitments made in 2008 with the Small Business Act. This was the main
outcome of a survey conducted by UEAPME, the European craft and SME employers'
organisation, which was released ahead of the SME Assembly in Cyprus. The "SBA
Implementation Scoreboard" recorded steps forward across all the ten surveyed
policy areas related to the Small Business Act.

Results were particularly
positive for public procurement, promotion of entrepreneurship and State aid.
When it comes to the respect of the "Think Small First" principle, the European
Commission and the European Parliament fared quite similarly on average in our
"Think Small Test". However, while both institutions are close by on business
support, the Commission is ahead on the legislation chapter and quite behind on
administration. Moreover, both remain below the average index measuring Member
States' performance, which is 5 points ahead.  

"For the first time ever, the survey
carried out UEAPME has recorded improvements across all the spectrum of
policies linked to the Small Business Act. Member States are finally acting to
meet the commitments made and the expectations raised in 2008", said Gerhard
Huemer, Director of the UEAPME Study Unit. "Progress on public procurement
reached double digits, with very positive results in addition for State aid and
entrepreneurship. Respect for the ‘Think Small First' principle also seems to
be widespread. Then again, the Commission still has some way to go to simplify
the administrative requirements linked to the contracts and projects that it
finances, and both Commission and Parliament remain below the EU average."

This year's Think Small Test, which
measures the level of respect for the "Think Small First" principle in the
areas of legislation, administration and business support services, recorded
similar average results for Commission (50%) and Parliament (51.1%). Both
received higher scores compared to last year for business support, which can be
explained by the members' positive reaction to the legislative proposals for
several programmes for 2014-2020. On the other hand, the administration score
worsened for the third time in a row for the Commission, leaving an impressive
18-point gap with the EP. This is due to the difficulties experienced by our
experts in carrying out contracts managed by the EC under different programmes.
"There is clearly ample room for improvement for the Commission on this aspect",
commented Mr Huemer.

Both institutions also recorded a
lower index compared to the average of all participating Member States, which
stands at 56.4%. "This can be justified by the higher expectations put by our
experts on the EU institutions, which are perceived as the driving forces
behind the creation and the implementation of the ‘Think Small First'
principle", Mr Huemer explained.

When it comes to putting into
practice the commitments of the Small Business Act, the  2012 
SBA Implementation Scoreboard recorded positive results compared to 2011
for all the ten policy areas under consideration. Public procurement marked the
highest improvement with +14.6%, possibly as the result of the new proposals in
the field made by the European Commission at the end of 2011. The deployment of
new growth enhancing measures as means to overcome the economic crisis placed
State aid as the second best improvement with +5.2%, tying with promoting
entrepreneurship.

The lowest increases were recorded
for "second chance" policies (+1.7%) and internationalisation (+1.6%).

The average of the SBA Scoreboard
results in each Member State increased this year by +4.4% and stands at 50.2%,
narrowing the gap with the Think Small Test average (56.4%). "A higher average
on the respect of the ‘Think Small First' principle is somehow to be expected.
After all, it is definitely easier to hold consultations with SMEs than to
improve SME policies on precise policy issues. However, the fact that the gap
between our two indexes is narrowing confirms our analysis: Member States are
finally taking concrete actions to implement the Small Business Act measures.
Despite their tight budgets, many national governments have realised that SMEs
are the way out of the crisis", concluded Mr Huemer.

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