All GCC governments are committed to supporting SMEs, sometimes through specific bodies or initiatives, and otherwise through general business-focused ministries and institutions.
Where governments offer support, especially funding, for SMEs and entrepreneurs, this is sometimes available only to nationals of the country in question, and not businesses run by expatriates. However, most GCC governments provide non-financial aid for SME business owners, from dedicated SME-focused public agencies to support and advice through other government departments, or private bodies such as chambers of commerce.
Bahrain is particularly SME-friendly, with the Ministry of Industry & Commerce specifically listing support for SMEs as one of its strategic objectives. The ministry manages its SME-focused activities through the Main Committee to Coordinate & Integrate SME Activities.
One of the primary SME-focused government organisations is Tamkeen, which was established in 2006 to support SMEs and entrepreneurs through training schemes, access to capital and other initiatives. The Bahrain Economic Development Board also helps to support businesses establishing themselves in the country.
The Kuwaiti government has until recently provided little in the way of concrete support for SMEs. Options were limited to small loans, albeit at preferential rates, from the state-funded Industrial Bank of Kuwait, and more recently support from the Kuwait Small Projects Development Company.
Last year, however, the government announced a KD1bn ($3.5bn) fund to support SMEs, and then doubled its value to KD2bn. The Kuwait National Fund for SMEs will provide up to 80 per cent of the finance for SME projects, once it is formally launched; this is expected to be by the end of the year, but potentially could be some time in 2015.
SMEs in Oman received a big boost last year thanks to a call from the Public Works Tender Board for a minimum of 10 per cent of public projects to be undertaken by SMEs. For direct support, the government established Sharakah in 1998, offering training and consultancy services to SMEs, along with loans of up to RO200,000 ($516,000).
For smaller projects, Omans Ministry of Manpower operates the Sanad programme for self-employment. This scheme offers Omani SMEs loans of RO5,000 ($12,900) per person, with generous repayment terms.
Qatar created Enterprise Qatar, an agency focused on SME development, in 2011. Aimed at encouraging Qatari entrepreneurs, it offers 70 per cent subsidies to SMEs for a wide range of services, including office space and consultancy.
The Social Development Centre, part of the Qatar Foundation, partnered with Qatar Development Bank (QDB) to create the Qatar Business Incubation Centre. QDB has also worked to increase its lending to SMEs, with other local banks following its lead.
The Council of Saudi Chambers operates a National Centre for Family Enterprises, aimed at supporting family-owned SMEs in the kingdom. The Saudi Industrial Development Fund administers the countrys Kafalah programme, which offers guarantees for bank loans to SMEs.
The government-owned Saudi Credit & Savings Bank can provide interest-free loans to Saudi SMEs. The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (Sagia), meanwhile, has a mandate to encourage foreign investment in the country and administers the kingdoms economic cities programme.
In April 2014, the UAE federal government passed the SME Law, which required 10 per cent of government contracts to be awarded to local SMEs, and also set in motion the establishment of a national SME council. The full effects of this law have not yet materialised.
Two of the biggest government-run SME support organisations are the Abu Dhabi-based Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development and Dubai SME. Both of these provide significant support to Emirati SMEs and entrepreneurs, including up to 90 per cent funding. In Sharjah, Ruwad Establishment, part of the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce & Industry, is focused on supporting SMEs in the emirate.
Ministry of Industry & Commerce
Tel: (+973) 1 756 8000 / 1 757 4777
Tel: (+973) 1 738 3333; Web: www.lf.bh
Bahrain Economic Development Board
Tel: (+973) 1 758 9999; Web: www.bahrainedb.com
Industrial Bank of Kuwait
Tel: (+965) 1 844 446 / 2 233 7000
Kuwait Small Projects Development Company
Tel: (+965) 2 242 6990; Web: www.kspdc.com
Ministry of Manpower
Tel: (+968) 8 007 7000; Web: www.manpower.gov.om
Oman Tender Board
Tel: (+968) 2 440 2100; Web: www.tenderboard.gov.om
Tel: (+968) 2 447 9300
Tel: (+968) 2 434 4501
Tel: (+974) 4 012 5000
Qatar Development Bank
Tel: (+974) 4 430 0000
Social Development Centre
Tel: (+974) 4 454 2400
Qatar Business Incubation Centre
Tel: (+974) 4 019 3000
Council of Saudi Chambers
Tel: (+966) 1 218 2222
Saudi Credit & Savings Bank
Tel: (+966) 11 274 6444
Saudi Industrial Development Fund
Tel: (+966) 11 477 4002
Tel: (+966) 11 203 5555 Web: www.sagia.gov.sa