KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 19 (Bernama) — ASEAN will develop a comprehensive regional small and medium enterprise (SME) sector under Malaysia’s chairmanship, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said.
The prime minister said the commitment reflected the importance of the SME sector in the Malaysian economy and the region.
“I hope to announce a strategic plan to this effect next year,” he said when addressing the ASEAN-Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-BAC) at a dinner in Kuala Lumpur, Wednesday night.
The prime minister said more measures would be formulated in near term to help SMEs access to finance.
“Some of these companies do not even keep proper books or understand how to present their business when seeking bank loans.
“Banks, in turn, are sometimes too risk averse when it comes to financing SMEs. That is why in some countries like Malaysia, there are SME banks,” he said.
Reiterating a proposal from ASEAN-BAC to set up the ASEAN SME Bank, he said ASEAN banks that wished to operate in another ASEAN country, should be compelled to set aside a proportion of their assets for SME lending.
Najib said the coming ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) presented great opportunities, but also serious challenges.
“As chair during this momentous time, Malaysia will lead – with the cooperation of member states – to achieve as much of the ASEAN blueprint as possible,” he said.
Najib said companies looking for the full benefit of the AEC must bear in mind that they might lose the first mover advantage if they were to wait too long.
“It’s not just ASEAN companies looking at the economies of scale of a single production base for a large and free market – but also global companies looking for a foothold in Southeast Asia.
“Already, non-ASEAN multinationals are establishing themselves and planning ahead,” he said.
Najib said a centralised data bank in ASEAN could provide SMEs with outsourced information to facilitate and grow their business.