On 9 June 2021, the OECD organised the second EU-supported capacity-building webinar on Digitalisation and the operational environment for SMEs for the government of Kazakhstan as part of the EU Central Asia Invest initiative.
The event was an opportunity to support ongoing and future reforms to improve the operational environment for SMEs in Kazakhstan. The webinar was conducted as part of the OECD Policy Component of the EU Central Asia Invest initiative, with the capacity-building themes based on analysis undertaken by the OECD in 2019-20 and the recently released OECD report Improving the Legal Environment for Business and Investment in Central Asia. The event brought together senior policy-makers from Kazakhstan with experts from the OECD.
Opening the session, First Vice Minister of National Economy Mr Timur Zhaksylykov underlined the importance of the topic, especially given the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. He highlighted the measures taken to protect SMEs during the crisis and described a new major legislative project to simplify the business regulatory environment by 2023. Mr Johannes Stenbaek-Madsen, Head of Co-operation of the EU Delegation to Kazakhstan noted that significant work had been undertaken to improve the regulatory environment for SMEs in recent years, highlighting the 2015 Entrepreneurial Code and the digital agenda.
Ms Amélie Schurich-Rey, Economist/Policy Analyst at the OECD Eurasia Division, presented the findings of the report on the operational environment for SMEs dimension, noting the commitment to regular regulatory impact assessment (RIA) set out in the 2015 Entrepreneurial Code, but that firms continued to be challenged by an unpredictable regulatory environment. Mr Luke Mackle, Policy Analyst at the OECD Eurasia Division, noted that digitalisation is accelerating in Central Asia, but in Kazakhstan, as in other countries of the region, government policy is restricted in its effectiveness by insufficient investment in digital infrastructure.
Ms Renny Reyes, Consultant in the OECD Regulatory Policy Division, led the first of two substantive capacity-building sessions, presenting recent OECD work on the ‘SME test’. She highlighted that SMEs face a disproportionate burden complying with regulations and that this can be addressed with a five-step process: identification of affected groups, stakeholder engagement, assessment of impacts overall and on SMEs, and potential alternatives and mitigating measures.
Mr Daniel Trnka, Senior Policy Analyst in the OECD Directorate for Public Governance, led the second capacity-building session, which focussed on OECD best practices for conducting RIA. He emphasised the importance of using RIA and consulting stakeholders throughout the legislative process rather than only at the end, especially given the unavoidably fast and non-consultative approach to legislation during the pandemic. He described the methods of creating a risk matrix for licensing and conducting cost/benefit analysis of regulations.
Concluding the webinar, First Vice Minister Zhaksylykov thanked the OECD for the organisation of the event and the substantive presentations. Mr Stenbaek-Madsen noted that Kazakh authorities and the EU share priorities on improving the regulatory environment for SMEs and that he looks forward to continued collaboration in these areas.