SMEs can call the tune on government

JOHANNESBURG (03/17/2004) - Is government merely paying lip service to the importance of small business in South Africa (SA)? That is the central question tackled by this year's edition of the annual SME Survey, the research project on the factors influencing small and medium enterprises in SA.

"Efforts to promote small business seem to have resulted in more restrictions than incentives," says Arthur Goldstuck, principal researcher for the SME Survey. "We felt that it was time to demystify the role of government, evaluate the effectiveness of incentive schemes for entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises, and uncover the extent to which government hampers, as well as stimulates, the growth of SMEs."

The inaugural SME Survey conducted in 2003 interviewed some 5,900 SME decision-makers on the impact of ICT and financial services on the levels of competitiveness among SMEs.

This year the main spotlight shifts to government's role in developing SMEs, although the research will again explore the use of ICT and financial services. The central research questions will deal with SME decision-makers' perceptions of their own competitiveness, as well as of the effectiveness of government efforts to support them. It is expected to interview at least 2,400 decision-makers for the survey.

"We will also be measuring the effectiveness of government communication drives when it comes to informing SMEs on new legislation and incentive strategies," says Goldstuck.

The survey is backed by Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) and Standard Bank Group, which both see small and medium enterprises as being among the keys to economic growth in SA.

"We look forward to the answers to the questions posed to these businesses," says Adrian Delport, PSG category manager at HP.

"As a sponsor, HP is showing its commitment to this market and will respond to the survey by offering simple ways to ensure these businesses can operate better and make more profits by using technology in their day-to-day operations," he adds.

Spiro Georgopoulos, director of business banking at Standard Bank, agrees: "As a business bank, we have the responsibility to ensure the growth of the SME segment. But we can only fulfill our commitment when SMEs are able to operate in an enabling environment. Therefore we need to know to what degree the efforts of Government and ourselves are succeeding in creating favorable conditions."

More information on the 2004 and 2003 SME surveys is available at http://www.smesurvey.co.za.

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