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Solutions for small and medium-sized enterprises’ difficulties in accessing finance

Asian experiences

Asia has been continuously growing, and this growth has alleviated poverty and increased the number of middle-income countries in the region. However, the recent regional and global economic slowdown was caused by several factors, including the limited access of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to bank credit. It requires new and sustainable models to ease access of SMEs to finance and boost economic growth and job creation in the region.

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A survey carried out by the Asian Development Bank (Asia SME Finance Monitor (ASM)) on 20 countries from five ADB regions1 shows that SMEs accounted for an average of 96% of all enterprises and 62% of the national labor forces across the ASM countries. These countries cover Central Asia, East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific. Meanwhile, the latest data reveal that SMEs contributed an average of 42% of the gross domestic product (GDP) or manufacturing value-added in ASM countries (ADB, 2015).

SMEs have continued to influence trade. The latest data show that SMEs in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and India accounted for more than 40% of total export values, followed by 26% in Thailand, 19% in the Republic of Korea, and 16% in Indonesia (ADB, 2015).

Definitions of SMEs differ between countries, not only as a common indicator, such as employment but also in the types of indicators used. Along with employment, the other common criteria are assets or capital, and revenue, which may be defined as sales or turnover. Many economies set two criteria, one is employment and the other is assets or capital, and revenue. For example, manufacturing firms in Malaysia are considered SMEs if they have fewer than 200 workers or revenue of less than RM50 million (about $12 million).

There may also be different criteria for different sectors. The PRC has 15 sector definitions, Japan has 4, and Singapore has 1. To make matters even more complicated, government agencies within the same country may use different definitions. A ministry may use one definition while the national statistics office uses another, and a priority lending policy may adopt yet another (Vandenberg, Chantapacdepong, and Yoshino 2016).