ISLAMABAD (APP) - Governments everywhere must make the interests of small and medium sized businesses a key priority or put sustained economic recovery at risk, three of the worlds leading accounting bodies have warned following a global survey which they commissioned. CPA Australia, the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada (CGA-Canada) and ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), which together represent more than 700,000 accountants and trainees worldwide, sponsored research by the world-renowned Economist Intelligence Unit, which explored the problems facing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in accessing finance from banks and other lenders. Based on that research and other recent studies, the three bodies have created their own report, which includes a series of recommendations for govts, banks and business. In those countries hit hardest by the economic downturn, banks have cut lending, and are facing criticism for not passing on interest rate cuts designed to help economies recover. Businesses experiencing depressed demand for their products or services are faced with tough decisions on investment and staffing levels, and on the best structure to survive and compete in the future. The accounting bodies have called for continued support for SMEs, noting that unless this sector has the confidence to resume hiring and investing, the global recovery could prove fragile. Early signs of improvement in the economy could be misleading, and policymakers must remain on the alert until at least 2011, the three organizations have warned. They also caution against overly interventionist or protectionist measures. Instead, they call for a continued focus on encouraging growth in the SME sector through lighter regulation, supportive policies, selected fiscal incentives and reasonable labour market flexibility. They call on governments to use tax incentives and workforce skills development to encourage investment and innovation. The decision to work together by ACCA, CGA-Canada and CPA Australia reflects the importance of the challenges facing SMEs today. The three bodies believe they can motivate policy makers, businesses and other stakeholders, to highlight the importance of SMEs and their contributions to global economic development. Given this is the first recession for many SMEs, they may need to re- learn finance and reconsider how they do business. Many will need support from professional accountants who have a crucial role to play in helping them to get through these challenging times, said Helen Brand, CE of ACCA.