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Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises

Moving Toward Gender Equity: It Takes Strategy and Opportunity

Sammar Essmat's picture



“Maybe in the Middle East … but in our part of the world, there is no gender inequity.” As an Egyptian, I wasn’t surprised to hear such assertions from colleagues when I arrived in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region to deliver a program aimed at creating opportunities for women in the private sector. With its socialist legacy, the region prided itself on gender equality. Women were historically well-represented in the state-run economic systems. I looked at legal frameworks and the Women, Business and the Law indicators and found little evidence of discrimination. Laws on the books were overwhelmingly gender-neutral. I was puzzled.
 
Then I studied data from the World Bank’s Enterprise Surveys: Women’s rates of participation in the private sector told a different story. Women’s status seemed to be collapsing with the state systems and falling as markets started opening. For instance, now, only 36% of firms in the region are owned by women; that is a lower percentage than in East Asia (60%) and Latin America and the Caribbean (40%). Only 19% of companies in Eastern Europe and Central Asia have female top managers, compared to 30% in East Asia and 21% in Latin America and the Caribbean.
 
So I faced the daunting task of delivering a gender program in a region where few believe that there are gender issues to address.

Regional Finance Roundup: Updates on Indonesia, China, and the Philippines

James Seward's picture

We are finally starting to see some positive news around the East Asia and Pacific region, but it is too soon to begin to speak of "green shoots" of economic activity or reaching the bottom of the economic downturn in Asia. Although the Swine flu (one disease originating from animals that did not come from Asia!) and the nervousness about the condition of U.S. banks had a slightly negative impact on financial markets in Asia this past week, the stock markets are still up by about 12% for the year – led by Indonesia (21.6%), Korea (11.8%), and China (9.4%).

Mongolian government takes action to support small businesses (or Inspections Gone Wild)

David Lawrence's picture

 

Restaurants in Mongolia can face fines for not having the right number of forks.
Mongolia's done a good job in reforming its business environment since the collapse of communism in the early 1990s. In Doing Business 2009, the country ranked 58th out of 181 economies and outperformed its neighbors, Russia and China, by significant margins. Well done. But that doesn't mean that things are easy for small businesses here. The overall business environment is a serious drag on Mongolia's development prospects, and the situation keeps getting worse as the financial crisis sinks its claws into the economy.

One area fully in Government control is business inspections. This is an important function: inspections protect the health and safety of the general public. But when inspections run wild, they can become a major burden to businesses, especially small ones. Inspections can impose large costs on businesses in terms of time and money, encourage firms to bribe their way out of violations, and even encourage entrepreneurs to operate in the shadows. That means less tax revenue and potentially dangerous products and services being offered to the public.

Is this a problem in Mongolia? Absolutely.