Stop politicking, more training programmes and govt support are among the SMEs’ wish list after GE15
by AKMAR ANNUAR / pic AFP
AS THE economy has seen a rapid recovery since it reopened in the endemic phase, most micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) remain optimistic despite a gloomy 2023 outlook.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic has greatly affected the economy and businesses, particularly small-time business owners, MSMEs players remain positive about their chances of bouncing back as they hope the next government will be able to address several pressing issues affecting them.
The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) gathered opinions from a cross-section of business owners on what their hopes and wishes are for the next federal administration.
Training Programmes for SMEs
Creative agency Qfour Communications Sdn Bhd co-founder Raja Nadia Raja Ahmad Tajudin Shah said her business is suffering due to price increases at the suppliers, as well as budget cuts and projects put on hold by clients.
“We are hoping that the new government can introduce some policies that will help the SMEs in terms of structural support like training programmes (upskilling or reskilling) and networking opportunities,” Raja Nadia told TMR.
Echoing Raja Nadia’s sentiment, iOli Communications Sdn Bhd founder and CEO Yan Lim hopes the new government would provide more programmes to train and coach MSMEs on the fundamentals, know-how and the how-tos in running a business, despite the ongoing political turmoil that’s affecting the nation’s economic development, which directly affects all businesses.
“I also hope the new government could ensure all the various aids and initiatives announced are helpful to the targeted groups.
“For instance, the various women empowerment programmes announced by the government in Budget 2022, including MyKasih Capital Programme, the Women Leadership Foundation, funding for women entrepreneurs through Bank Simpanan Nasional, Agrobank, the Special Business Financing Scheme for Women programme under Mara (Majlis Amanah Rakyat) and Tekun’s Tekunita.
“Did all these aids reach the targeted groups? Government agencies need to tackle this issue from the ground up and would also need to handle this from the grass-roots level,” Lim, who is an active mentor in the entrepreneurship ecosystem, told TMR.
She said only by handling this issue then no one would be left behind and whatever that is announced would lead to optimised results.
“As a business owner, I hope that no matter which party is elected — former promises and policies in place will be continued and further enhanced,” she said, adding that the new government should not stop a good programme, just because it is not theirs.
On that note, Raja Nadia urges the elected representatives to stop their constant politicking and fighting for power, and put more focus on economic policies that will push for growth, something which she feels the country is lacking in.
Agreeing with Raja Nadia’s statement, Magnate Consultancy Sdn Bhd founder Edmond Teh felt that the ongoing political instability is not good for both businesses and economy.
Teh opined that the political turmoil has weakened the confidence of many voters for the three main coalitions — Pakatan Harapan, Barisan Nasional and Perikatan Nasional.
“People were worried about spending, so businesses suffered because people lost confidence,” he shared.
He added that all Malaysians want a better life and environment, and someone they can rely on to govern the country.
Echoing Teh’s concern over the political instability, home-based perfume seller and aspiring entrepreneur Ida Rahayu Nasaruddin said her business is also facing some issues with her suppliers and competitors.
“I hope that the government can build a new strategy for entrepreneurs by creating more online business platforms and business courses or seminars to establish relationships,” she said, adding that these courses will enable the entrepreneurs to recognise competitors and compete healthily.
When asked what she expects from the new Cabinet, she simply replied: “For the government to waive the Goods and Services Tax (GST).”
Aid for Tourism Recovery
As for the tourism industry, the Malaysian Association Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) honorary secretary-general Faeez Fadhlillah suggested three initiatives to ensure the recovery of the tourism sector, as it contributes almost 15% to the GDP and produces almost 25% of the total workforce in Malaysia.
“To ensure the recovery efforts are in the right direction, the continuation of policies under the management of former Tourism, Arts and Culture (Motac) Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Syukri must be maintained, so that those plans and actions planned do not amount to half-way policies,” he shared with TMR.
On tourism challenges for the past years, pre- and post-pandemic, he added that most operators in the tourism sector are under the SME category, which on average saw a loss of almost 100% of cashflow throughout 2020 and 2021 due to border closures and Movement Control Orders.
“To help these small entrepreneurs, most of whom are Bumiputera entrepreneurs, the government, especially the Finance Ministry, could provide loans with low-interest rates and is guaranteed by the Business Financing Guarantee Co.
“This effort should be carried out by an independent body under the management of the government to ensure the low borrowing rate by the tourism sector can be overcome,” he said.
Faeez also suggested that the government provide tax exemptions to tourism operators registered under Motac, including any taxes such as sales tax and GST that will be introduced by 2024, in line with United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation projections that the full recovery of the tourism sector will be in 2024 and 2025.
“As a representative of the tourism industry, Matta would like to be part of the Economic Action Council to ensure any future policy drafted is holistic and the recovery for the tourism industry can hastened,” he said.
On a separate note, home baker Syazana Abdul Rashid, who runs Wildflour Cakes by Syaza, felt that having some government support in terms of product marketing would be beneficial to up-and-coming entrepreneurs like her.
“As a young entrepreneur and small business owner, I always have difficulty marketing my products to the masses.
“As such, I heavily rely on regular customers who know and trust me to assist me in promoting my business to their friends and family. Personally, I am still trying to figure out the best way to market my business to attract new customers in an already concentrated market,” she told TMR.
Hence, she felt that it will be good if the new government can provide some marketing tool or allocation that small business owners can apply and utilise for product and business marketing.
At the same time, she is hoping that the new government can comes up with holistic measures in dealing with the rising inflation.
“The cost of raw ingredients has skyrocketed in the last few months alone and it has been tough for me to maintain my cake prices within the affordable price range without skimping on quality,” she said.
Agreeing with Syazana’s plight, e-commerce fulfilment services provider iStore iSend co-founder and CEO Joe Khoo said for any businesses to thrive, support from the government is crucial to further elevate and help businesses to grow. “Hence, it is hoped that the future government will be able to come out with initiatives that will further enhance and strengthen the logistics and warehousing industry,” he added.
Khoo noted that some key areas that would be beneficial for business growth would be in terms of technological advancements and funding. With the acceleration of digital technology, he said businesses can better improve their operations.
“Once they have better business solutions that can simplify operations, businesses will be able to serve their customers better, which in turn makes the SME ecosystem better,” he added, while stressing that the new government needs to focus on accelerating the recovery rate of the economy.
Khoo also hopes that the new administration can implement measures that will encourage SMEs to improve and adapt digitalisation into their business operations, as automation of businesses will positively impact the owners and entrepreneurs, which will then help to improve the economy as well.
As a business owner himself, he believes a stable economy will attract more investors, which will help to generate more domestic and foreign direct investments into the country.
“This will help Malaysia to prosper and grow, and lead to better job opportunities for the people,” he concluded.
- This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition