About project

Project activities

USAID’s Cooperation for Growth Project encompasses a range of activities aimed to improve the business environment for Serbian small and medium enterprises as well as to increase opportunities for their financing. The goal of the Project is to build self-reliant, market-based systems that provide services for the government, private sector, and associations to improve the business enabling environment for SMEs and increase their access to finance. This will lead to increased SME competitiveness and expansion, which will drive Serbia’s economic growth.

USAID’s Cooperation for Growth Project encompasses a range of activities aimed to improve the business environment for Serbian small and medium enterprises as well as to increase opportunities for their financing. The goal of the Project is to build self-reliant, market-based systems that provide services for the government, private sector, and associations to improve the business enabling environment for SMEs and increase their access to finance. This will lead to increased SME competitiveness and expansion, which will drive Serbia’s economic growth.

Strengthening of e-commerce

The USAID Cooperation for Growth Project supports the Ministry of trade, tourism, and telecommunications of the Republic of Serbia in strengthening e-commerce in country through development and implementation comprehensive regulatory changes and incentives. The importance of e-commerce for the private sector as well as for small and medium enterprises cannot be sufficiently emphasized in the digital age, from perspectives of both clients reach and lowering cost. Nevertheless, e-commerce is still insufficiently developed in Serbia. The USAID Cooperation for Growth Project in cooperation with the Ministry of trade, tourism and telecommunications, eCommerce Association of Serbia, other business associations and interested companies, works on implementation of measures of highest positive impact on expansion and improvement of e-commerce in Serbia.

Expert support to the Ministry of finance in the improvement of tax policies and regulatory framework

The USAID Cooperation for Growth Project provides technical support to the Ministry of finance of the Republic of Serbia in improving the tax regulation and its even implementation in the areas of VAT and income tax. A team of Project’s experts works on consolidating the VAT bylaws, production of rules of defining the point of purchase in e-commerce, conducting trainings on implementation of incentives in the area of income tax for innovative companies, as well as on implementation of BEPS (Base Erosion and Profit Shifting) initiative’s minimal standards. Through its activities, the Project supports the Ministry of finance in addressing the uncertainties in interpretation and implementation of tax regulation, evening the implementation practices in the work of tax institutions and supports the voluntary tax compliance.

Research of impact of accountants on voluntary tax compliance

The USAID Cooperation for Growth Project conducts research of behavior and attitudes of accountants and accounting agencies in providing services to taxpayers in Serbia. The research is focused on analysis of the potential of accountants to improve the compliance of SME’s to Serbian tax regulation. This research will provide insights into behavior of accountants, their communication with the tax administration and the way they provide services to clients, especially SME’s. The study’s results will present the key indicators of accountant’s behavior and strategic recommendations for creation of measures that may improve voluntary tax compliance by SME’s. Based on the results, the Project plans to work on proposal of measures for improvement of communication among the tax administration, providers of accounting services and SME’s as taxpayers.

Inspection and a law implementation

The project provides practical support to the implementation of the risk-based inspection oversight, focusing on the new principles and technologies in inspection’s work, as well as providing digital services to companies with the goal of shortening the time and lowering the cost for companies required to address the regulatory requirements.

Support to digitalization of inspections

„E-inspektor“, as a comprehensive system, provides a top quality risk assessment based on internal risk criteria and finding of actual inspection’s visits. In addition, this system digitalizes all data on actual inspection’s visits and allows quality reporting and analytics. Good, risk-based planning lowers the number of inspection’s visits and adjusts the number of inspection’s controls to the actual risk. USAID Cooperation for Growth Project supports implementation of the new system through development of risk criterions and trainings for its use.

We also provide support to the process of digitalization of special registries necessary for the adequate operation of the „E-inspektor“system and the act of registration.

Strengthening of voluntary compliance

  • Improving business compliance through development of digital platforms and networks of knowledge exchange with the focus on selected industries.
  • Strengthening of voluntary compliance through initiating communication of regulators and companies in the form of Open Days with Inspections, providing an opportunity for direct conversation of inspectors and businesses to solve the doubts regarding compliance and achieve understanding of the current regulation.
  • Strengthening of voluntary compliance through development of recommendations for conducting advisory activities of inspections and self-assessments of compliance by businesses.
  • Improving compliance through direct work with selected industries through targeted trainings and production of practical guides.

Strengthening of inspectors’ capacities

  • Online trainings on inspection oversight for the National Academy for Public Administration are being developed as a comprehensive basic training for inspectors.
  • Strengthening the capacity of the inspectors’ association to act as a professional organization through development of a website and a platform for its internal communication and trainings.

USAID’s Cooperation for Growth Project encompasses a range of activities aimed to improve the business environment for Serbian small and medium enterprises as well as to increase opportunities for their financing. The goal of the Project is to build self-reliant, market-based systems that provide services for the government, private sector, and associations to improve the business enabling environment for SMEs and increase their access to finance. This will lead to increased SME competitiveness and expansion, which will drive Serbia’s economic growth.

Expanding the volume and availability of banking products available to SMEs

The goal of this project activity is to improve the communication and understanding between banks and SME representatives, as well as to create the tools that will help small businesses to better understand banking procedures and requirements. We expect this activity to improve the quality and increase the number of loan applications by SMEs, leading to an overall increase in lending to the SME sector. Also, the Project aims to improve the availability of banking products intended for the sector, especially for small enterprises which will boost their growth and improve access to markets.

Dobarzabanku.rs –#dobarzabanku platform is a unique online tool in Serbia, enabling small and medium enterprises to assess their credit capability and prepare better for obtaining a bank loan. For the first time in Serbia, small and medium enterprises can get a credit capacity assessment and learn about loan availability all in one place, without visiting the bank. Also, the platform helps small and medium enterprises to expand their knowledge of the loan application process through educational video tutorials.

„Step by step“ program–Erste bank’s program supporting startups, social enterprises, and civil society organizations. The Project is supporting the program, helping startups gain, in addition to financial support, also the mentorship for further development. Purpose loans are helping the starting businesses to develop, increase the number of employees, and contribute to the development of their communities. This program is combining banking products with financial education and mentorship to help clients make quality business decisions.

Digital transformation of small and medium enterprises –The goal of the project is to help small and medium enterprises to engage in the process of digital transformation. Introducing digital innovations and new business models help small and medium enterprises to become more attractive for financing including bank financing. Through this activity, the Project provides SMEs with a series of online tools and guides: an online digital maturity assessment tool, and an online publication of roadmap to a digital business model that will be universally applicable across all enterprise profiles and industries. Besides, we are organizing educational workshops aimed at connecting SMEs with potential investors and partners.

Financial management programs for SMEs -Financial management for SMEs is a comprehensive multidisciplinary program designed to bring together and systematize all the knowledge and tools necessary to successfully manage and review finance. The main idea of the program is to put the finances of a company in a broader context of managing the entire business and demonstrate how financial indicators can become an important contributor to running a business successfully. Also, this program focuses particularly on the availability and actual use of banking products and services through increased transparency and communication between the banks and SMEs. The USAID Cooperation for Growth Project has supported this program with the intent of helping SMEs to gain practical and useful growth enabling knowledge. As a result, the companies that participated in this program were granted EUR 21.35 million through new and adequately structured loans.

Supporting the development of the regulatory framework for alternative investment funds

The project supported the Serbian Ministry of Finance in developing the regulatory framework for alternative investment funds. The project provided technical support in finalizing the Alternative Investment Funds Act (ZAIF), introducing the standards from the EU Directive on Alternative Investment Funds Management Companies (AIFM Directive). As a result of this successful cooperation, the Law was adopted in October 2019. ZAIF is expected to improve access to finance for SMEs and expand the range of available financing instruments, especially when it comes to venture capital (VC) financing, private equity (PE), and other alternative investment funds. To support the ZAIF implementation, The USAID Cooperation for Growth Project provides the Securities Commission of the Republic of Serbia with the technical support in writing thee by-laws.

Strengthening cooperation and growth through equity financing

Through this program, The USAID Cooperation for Growth Project improves the capacity of SMEs to clearly articulate their needs and strengthens their ability to attract investment through equity financing. The program consists of workshops raising awareness about this type of financing, focus groups for SME capacity strengthening, comprehensive training, monitoring, evaluation, and negotiations with potential investors. The activity covers the SME sector across the country. The program identifies the basic causes of limitations, as well as priorities for strengthening SMEs’ capacity for easier access to these financing sources. The activity not only attracts the attention of various decision-makers but also proves that financing the SME sector through equity financing is possible in Serbia, which additionally supports the implementation of business environment reforms.

Introduction of a new non-banking product for SMEs

Study of legal and regulatory environment for implementation of crowdfunding

Through three case studies, The USAID Cooperation for Growth Project researched the regulatory, legal, and administrative framework for the implementation of crowdfunding platforms in Serbia. The analysis encompasses the complete legal framework for crowdfunding in compliance with the domestic laws, as well as business aspects for each of the three platforms, such as regulatory and administrative costs, tax issues, asymmetrical information challenge, possible solutions in line with the domestic legislation, the legal responsibility of the platforms as financial intermediaries. Besides the legal and business aspects, the activity also assesses the social and market impact of the implementation of these platforms as an alternative to traditional financing sources. As a result, the Project presented recommendations for regulators, intermediaries, and other stakeholders relevant for measures necessary for the implementation of crowdfunding in Serbia.

Support to introduction of the first crowd investing platform in Serbia

In cooperation with BDO, we are developing “Ventu”, the first crowd investing platform in Serbia. Crowd investing is a financial and marketing recipe for small business growth. Through crowd investing, many small investors invest together in one business (or more, in time), each investing the amount they wish. The ”Ventu” platform allows stable businesses with good products that pass the legal and financial analysis and identified as good candidates, to tell their story (with support from the marketing team), post the campaign on the platform’s website, and compete for the investors’ attention. On the other hand, the interest of the investors in purely financial, as investing in companies brings profit several times larger than that of the bank saving, with the possibility of an even higher profit if the company’s growth significantly exceeds expectations.

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