TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (AP) -- A group of international financial and development institutions launched a new fund Friday to foster small and medium businesses in Central Asia.
The $8.6-million fund was set up by the Swiss government, the International Finance Corporation, which is part of the World Bank Group, and the U.S. Agency for International Development to stimulate economic growth in the five former Soviet republics in Central Asia.
The nations have been going through a painful economic transition since gaining independence after Soviet collapse in 1991. The region's international importance has risen since it became a key staging ground for the anti-terrorist campaign in neighboring Afghanistan, with foreign troops deployed at bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
The SEAF Central Asia Small Enterprise Fund will make direct equity, equity-related, debt and leasing investments in small and medium enterprises and help them improve their management practices, the fund's director, Donald Nickolson, told a news conference in the Uzbek capital Tashkent.
``We will coach, tutor, nurse businesses for prosperity and growth,'' he said.
The fund's initial investments will be within the range of $ 350,000 and $400,000 and will involve enterprises employing between 10 to 100 workers.
Associated Press, July 5, 2002