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Cablegate: Response to Mepi Small Business Initiative for Women

VZCZCXYZ0031
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMK #0799 3381320
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 031320Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANAMA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 8292

UNCLAS MANAMA 000799

SIPDIS

FOR NEA/PI

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EAID KMPI BA
SUBJECT: RESPONSE TO MEPI SMALL BUSINESS INITIATIVE FOR WOMEN
PROJECT

REF: STATE 115408

1. Summary: Reftel requested Post's views on MEPI's proposal to fund
a Small Business Initiative for Women (SBIFW) program in Bahrain.
Post believes such an initiative could advance economic goals in its
Mission Strategic Plan (MSP). We request that MEPI coordinate with
Post in the design and implementation of any programs that result
from this initiative. End Summary.

2. In Post's view, the SBIFW has the potential to strengthen the
role of women in business in Bahrain. Although the social and
regulatory environments in Bahrain are among the more favorable for
women in the region, there is certainly room for improvement.
Non-governmental societies such as the Bahrain Business Women's
Society (BWS) and Young Entrepreneurs Society provide support for
local businesswomen, but need organizational training. While the
societies offer business elites an opportunity for regional
networking, there remains a public perception that they are
inaccessible to the general public. Additionally, explanations of
government regulations and requirements related to setting up a
small business are not readily available.

3. In our view, the three SBIFW programs offered in reftel that
would most effectively advance our MSP goal -- "promoting a
prosperous economy consistent with the U.S.-Bahrain FTA" are:

a) Training on how to monitor regulatory and other policy proposals
affecting women-owned businesses.

At the October MEPI Corporate Ambassador's conference in Bahrain,
there was significant discussion of the U.S. Small Business Act of
1953, which requires the USG to set aside five percent of all
procurement contracts for small and medium enterprises. The
Ministry of Finance, the BWS, and UNIDO-Bahrain all expressed
interest in learning more about the U.S. law, and then advocating
for a similar law in Bahrain. The BWS, however, has said that it
does not know how to proceed.

b) Creation of a reference document library explaining government
regulations and requirements to establish a small business.

Information is not readily accessible to potential entrepreneurs,
men and women alike, who may be interested in starting up a
business. Bahraini entrepreneurs might benefit from facilities like
the U.S. Small Business Administration's website [www.sba.gov],
which includes online training, and a library of reference materials
on marketing, laws and regulations, business planning, and SOPs.
Alternatively, this information might be made available as pamphlets
and booklets.

c) Industry-specific training.

Existing MEPI programs and GOB training in Bahrain are largely
focused on generic management courses, such as marketing or
accounting. Businesswomen have repeatedly voiced an interest in
more specialized training.

HENZEL

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