As governments around the world address the challenges of low growth, weak trade and investment, and rising inequalities, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs have emerged as a driving force for open and prosperous societies. Fostering these firms’ contributions to sustainable and inclusive growth requires a level playing field for small business, crucially in the area of finance. Yet, compared to large firms, SMEs continue to face more stringent financing conditions, higher interest rates for bank credit, and higher hurdles in attracting alternative sources of finance.

This sixth edition of Financing SMEs and Entrepreneurs: An OECD Scoreboard provides the evidence base to help governments get their SME finance policies right. It monitors SME access to debt, equity, asset-based finance, along with framework conditions, emerging trends and policy responses in 39 countries. It also builds on previous editions with important improvements in methodology, analysis and country coverage.

The 2017 edition of the SME Finance Scoreboard demonstrates that almost a decade after the 2007-08 crisis, the financing situation of SMEs and entrepreneurs has continued to improve in most participating countries, confirming the trend which was described in the 2016 report. The cost and availability of credit generally improved in 2015 and in the first half of 2016. For example, the volume of new SME loans in Spain rose by 12.2% in 2015 after 6 consecutive years of decline over the 2007-13 period, and in the United States, the outstanding stock of SME loans was up by 1.5% in 2015. Interest rates to SMEs fell in 36 out of 39 countries, by a median value of 0.49 percentage points. Furthermore, the drop in bankruptcies and business to business payment delays are signs of a more favourable business environment. In addition, for some sources of finance complementary to straight debt, such as peer-to-peer lending, equity crowdfunding or business angel investments, volumes increased, though often from a low base and at an uneven pace.

SME finance remains high on the policy agenda around the world. Although credit guarantees remained the most widely used instruments in 2015, a growing effort to stimulate the use of alternative instruments, in particular equity-type instruments, was observed in many countries, along with increased attention to innovative fast-growing enterprises. In addition, facilitating access to finance for women-owned ventures, as well as for internationally active SMEs, has become a central objective of many policies and programmes.

Despite these initiatives, several important challenges remain. There is increasing evidence that weak demand for credit, along with a lack of investment opportunities, are holding back a stronger recovery in volumes of credit and other types of finance. At the same time, start-ups and young firms, micro-enterprises and innovative fast-growing firms still encounter significant problems when seeking finance. Furthermore, significant downside risks in the economic outlook could cause SME finance to deteriorate, particularly since most SMEs remain highly dependent on traditional bank debt, and therefore vulnerable to changing credit conditions.

The thematic chapter of this publication explores how to increase the uptake of non-bank finance instruments by SMEs. It illustrates that in order to create viable and liquid SME finance markets, policies often need to address supply- and demand-side barriers in tandem, as well as taking into account cyclical and structural issues.

The OECD will continue to support policymakers in designing and implementing appropriate responses to foster SME access to a diverse set of financing instruments, including by delivering a set of effective approaches for implementing the G20/OECD High Level Principles on SME Financing. Through productive investments, the creation of new jobs and stronger innovation, SMEs can help bring about more sustainable and inclusive growth with broader benefits for our societies.


Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General