INTERVIEW WITH FLORIN JIANU, THE CEO OF CNIPMMR:"If national and european instruments have a quick enter in the economy, it will recover"

George Marinescu(TRANSLATED BY COSMIN GHIDOVEANU)
English Section / 22 ianuarie

"If national and european instruments have a quick enter in the economy, it will recover"

Small and medium-sized businesses have had a difficult year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has led to an unexpected crisis. 98.23% of entrepreneurs in our country claim that their activity has been affected by the current crisis, and 5 out of 10 SMEs have reduced their activity, according to data recently presented in the White Paper on SMEs 2020. The government tried throughout the past year to support entrepreneurs through several measures financed via the state budget and European grants, but many of them encountered difficulties in implementation.

In an interview, Florin Jianu, the president of the National Council of Small and Medium Private Enterprises in Romania (CNIPMMR) spoke about the whole situation and the expectations for the current year.

Reporter: How would you describe the situation of SMEs at the moment?

Florin Jianu: t is a special situation, which no one would have predicted in the beginning of 2020. Whereas in January 2020 we were talking about the labor shortage, about a consistent growth of companies, at the end of the year we ended up talking about about preserving the current number of jobs and maintaining competitiveness. The year 2020 was a special one, because the crisis was special, as it was not the result of economic causes. It was a health crisis that Romania at least has not faced during the last 30 years of entrepreneurship. If we look at the statistics, we had decreases in the registration of new companies, but we also had decreases in the number of company closures. And then, we can say that last year was a year of the status quo, a year where, if we did not successfully develop, we did not have very big losses.

So, if national and European funds enter the economy quickly, Romania's economy will certainly recover. In that regard, however, we all need to work in this direction, we need a collaboration between the public and private sector, adequate tools, professionals, an exact implementation of the economic recovery plans.

Reporter: Unlike the previous years, have the problems faced by entrepreneurs in our country remained largely the same?

Florin Jianu: The major problems remain the same. However, we have the chance to overcome all these problems with the help of the infusion of European capital - we are talking about the National Recovery and Resilience Plan - a plan that envisages investments in strategic areas, such as digitalization, which actually means a simplification and massive debureaucratization. The plan also includes investments in road and rail infrastructure, which are so so necessary for the Romanian economy, investments in the development of key sectors of the national economy - and here I am referring to what Romania's economic security means: food warehouses, processing factories, medical supplies factories which are so badly needed. Look at these trivial protective masks, we imported them throughout this pandemic, increasing the trade deficit, instead of making them in Romania. These are systemic problems, which Romania, with the help of these funds and with an adequate implementation, can overcome during this period. So, basically, we should also see the opportunities in this crisis.

Reporter: Are you satisfied with the measures taken by the Government over the past year to support the business sector or do you think that something more would have been needed?

Florin Jianu: There were a number of good measures, such as the furlough funds - the money arrived promptly at that time. Now it has been transformed into kurzarbeit (n.r. - flexible work), and that is where there issue is for the money to enter the companies' accounts for the last three months of last year. When we talk about 2020 we are also referring to SME Invest, a program that has proven its usefulness and capacity, reaching over 24,000 guarantees granted to Romanian companies, but also about a delay in the implementation of measures to support working capital and capital for investments - with those measures generically called 1, 2, 3 - measures that, only entered implementation towards the end of 2020. They could have been implemented faster, as we have been asking for them since April, and then surely things would have been different during this period.

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Reporter: Are Romanian entrepreneurs ready to access European funds, from a professional point of view, from a procedural point of view, or is there still a need for professional training programs in that regard?

Florin Jianu: My message to entrepreneurs is not to specialize in accessing European funds themselves, but to turn to specialists and professionals in accessing that type of funds. They should not access those funds themselves, because there are many small things, many mistakes that can be made in implementation and which would result in their needing to return the money. However, if we look strictly at the number of companies that have applied to the other measures - for example the Regional Operational Program, despite all the overcontracting made by the Government recently, we have requests that exceed two or three times the level of allocated funds. So, we can say that the Romanian private business sector is a mature one, ready for the implementation and absorption of European funds. And, if we make a comparison between what the private environment and the public environment managed to do during this period, in this multiannual financial year 2014-2020, but also in the previous one - 2007-2013, we see that the private sector is the one that performed the best.

Reporter: What expectations do you have from the new government?

Florin Jianu: We expect, first of all, to see that the new government is made up of professionals, to see an immediate implementation of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, the creation of national task forces to work closely to ensure cooperation between the public and private sector on the absorption of European grants. We expect some key investments in the economy, such as the modernization and development of road and rail infrastructure, and the modernization and reform of the economic sector, from simplification-debureaucratization to supporting a new generation of entrepreneurs through appropriate instruments for financing, development and internationalization.

Reporter: What should be done for the private business environment in our country, and especially SMEs, to exceed 50% of the Gross Domestic Product at the end of 2021?

Florin Jianu: We should first and foremost make appropriate policies for the private sector. That is what we should begin with, a legislative differentiation. Let us no longer legislate or over-legislate for small companies like we do for the major ones, because at the moment we do not think at all on a small scale as the European principle goes, i.e. we do not think appropriately and in a simplified manner about small companies versus large ones. All companies have to implement the same requirements and that results in large companies losing competitiveness. It is very difficult for major companies due to overregulation and extensive bureaucracy to operate at parameters which would allow them to reach their potential.

Reporter: Thank you!

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