Malaysia: More effort needed to prepare SMEs for integrated market

A coffee shop in Sibu, Sarawak, where a Muslim food stall stands beside a pork mee soup stall and another selling bak kut teh (pork rib soup).
A coffee shop in Sibu, Sarawak, where a Muslim food stall stands beside a pork mee soup stall and another selling bak kut teh (pork rib soup).PHOTO: ST FILE

Is Malaysia ready for the AEC?

International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed has said the average implementation rate of the measures set out for the AEC framework was 90.5 per cent.

Unfortunately, more than half of Malaysian SMEs remain unsure of the AEC's impact on their businesses. In a survey published by the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM) in March, some 68 per cent of respondents said they were not sure what preparations they ought to make.

The open Asean market provides an opportunity for Malaysian companies to tap an expanded market, but on the other hand, they can also expect a sudden influx of other players, thus resulting in more intense competition, said ACCCIM president Ter Leong Yap.

And according to Bank Muamalat chairman Munir Majid, Asean's SMEs constitute 89 to 99 per cent of enterprises, employing across the region between 52 per cent and 97 per cent of the working population.

While their output is only 23 per cent to 58 per cent of Asean GDP, and just 10 per cent to 30 per cent of exports, those numbers reflect the low productivity of the SMEs, "which, again, point to why their needs must be attended to if they are not to be swept aside by incoming competitors".

With that in mind, the Growth Accelerator Exchange (GAX) - a digital platform to cater to the financing needs of Asean SMEs - was launched to strengthen Asean SMEs. The GAX, which facilitates peer-to-peer financing and loan crowdfunding, will be made available in Malaysia first and subsequently, to other Asean countries next year.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 28, 2015, with the headline 'More effort needed to prepare SMEs for integrated market'. Print Edition | Subscribe