We have noticed that EximBank is paying enhanced attention to attracting EU funds. You are also promoting the products you offer to this niche-market and have created a section dedicated to structural funds on EximBank’s website. Could you please detail this for us?
An as active as possible commitment to increasing EU funds’ absorption rate is one of the strategic lines EximBank has chosen for this year, also because we believe that, alongside export, European money is one of the engines that could dive a positive growth of the gross domestic product in 2010. A higher rate of EU funds’ attraction would lead to augmented investment volumes and to the creation of new jobs, in other words to higher output and export that would thus offset the lower consumption. In addition, the current financial market context, primarily characterised by shrinking credit, could be a momentum for EU money absorption, as it represents a much cheaper corporate financing option. For this reason, the attraction of as much EU funds as we possibly can should be a priority to both authorities and economic operators.
What are the main setbacks in the process of absorbing EU funds in this country? What are the solutions to these shortcomings, in your opinion?
It is true that we still have a low rate of disbursements to beneficiaries, which is an indication of the residing issues with project implementation, but I don’t think one can say no major progress has been made in that department. Although Romanian companies have had more difficulties in adjusting to the project-based working practice, we nevertheless have quite an important number of success stories. I believe the better publicity of success stories makes more entrepreneurs more confident about developing such projects. This is why, in our opinion, we need better transparency and more active communication among all participants in the process. It is exactly from such premises that we started when we devised our package of products that we will try to extensively promote in order to convince as many businesspeople as possible that we can be a genuine partner in the process of drawing European funds.
What is EximBank’s range of products suitable for entrepreneurs who intend to draw EU funds? What are the preferred areas EximBank products target?
We made the decision to become more committed to this particular niche towards the end of last year, when we launched a whole package designed to assist enterprises and public authorities running projects that that are being financed with structural funds. Through this package where we offer co-financing, pre-financing, unbinding letters of intent or guarantees, we seek to facilitate the access of as many SMEs, big companies or public administrations to this form of financing.
With its products, EximBank can meet up to 100 per cent of financing needs specific for projects implemented with European money. According to the type of project financed with structural funds, EximBank can grant investment loans for the co-financing of the component that represents the company’s own contribution to the project financed with EU money. With this product, a company that has concluded a financing agreement with the management authority may obtain 100 per cent of the value of both eligible and non-eligible expenses in connection with its own contribution.
We also offer loans for the pre-financing of companies’ needs during the period from the time they pay their suppliers on the project and the time when they actually receive the money from the management authority. The product can provide up to 100 per cent of the EU financing obtained and is awarded for a maximum term of two years.
Our relevant range of products also includes comfort letters – a tool through which the bank states its intention to give the company the funds it needs to sustain the project as long as the project is accepted by the responsible management authority.
EximBank can also guarantee loans companies take out with commercial banks in view of implementing projects involving structural funds.
I would also like to note the fact that we have been trying to smoothen up communication with companies via the Internet, recognising a fact suggested by surveys: at an initial information-gathering phase, prospective EU funding applicants primarily try to get the information they need on the Internet. With consideration to that, we have re-thought the structure of our website and created an EU funds dedicated section where they can find exhaustive information on how to attract European money.
Ahead of implementing our integrated package, we had organised training sessions with our sales force in order to give trading companies and public authorities the possibility of contacting any of the EximBank branches for customised assistance. Only in that way can they identify the best financing options suitable for each particular project.