The ongoing G20 meetings taking place in Turkey throughout the year have highlighted a number of pressing economic issues, such as agriculture, trade and recovery from the financial crisis. Senior government officials from 20 of the largest economies in the world have come together with business and industry leaders to discuss the situation in their own countries and how they can best work together to improve the global economy. However, one key demographic is often left out of these meetings. New efforts, led by the government, hope to bring small and medium-sized business owners into the conversation.
The G20 has long sought a variety of perspectives and opinions by inviting not just government ministers but international organizations, corporations and academics to participate in its meetings and discussions. However, due to their size, small and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs, are often left out of these global conversations. Despite their size, however, SMEs are crucial to both the global economy and the Turkish economy. According to the European Commission, the number of SMEs in Turkey doubled between 2009 and 2011, and they account for 99.9 percent of all businesses in the country, spanning all sectors from hospitality to agriculture to transportation.
When Turkey assumed the presidency of the G20, it laid out its main priorities for the year in three main pillars: inclusiveness, investment and implementation. As part of the inclusiveness pillar, Turkey sought to find ways to include these SMEs in G20 activities. Unfortunately, these businesses often do not have the capability to promote or represent themselves on a larger stage because of their smaller size. In late May, the G20 took a major step in improving the position of these entities on a global stage when Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan unveiled the World SME Forum alongside the International Chamber of Commerce. This forum will become a central hub where small business owners can voice their concerns and learn from one another, similar to how the heads of state of the G20 nations come together every November. By providing a global forum, this initiative will help entrepreneurs around the world better represent themselves and their businesses.
This new initiative mirrors Turkey's own commitment to small- and medium-sized business owners. Turkish regulations make it easy for anyone to open a business, and the World Bank has ranked Turkey's ease of doing business higher than many of its neighbors, including countries such as Italy, Greece and Lebanon. Once businesses have been set up, Turkey gives them the tools they need to succeed. Start-ups can apply for grants to help get off the ground, and government-funded technoparks provide SMEs with research hubs. Last month, the government partnered with the EU and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to provide funding and business training for SMEs run by women. By providing the support for SMEs to thrive, Turkey has cultivated a passion for entrepreneurship, and Turkey outpaces the EU average in people who want to start their own business, the opinion held by small business owners, and entrepreneurial education.
The work that Turkey has done at home, as well as the significant contributions of SMEs to its economy, positions it well as a champion for SMEs around the world. The announcement of the World SME Forum will allow for better collaboration between owners of these businesses and ensure that their voices will be heard going forward.