KUCHING: Challenges, growth and the future of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Sarawak were highlighted at a dialogue session organised by the Asean Business Advisory Council Malaysia (Asean-BAC Malaysia) here today.

Its chairman Tan Sri Mohd Munir Abdul Majid, who made a presentation and led the discussion, said being in a state away from the major commercial centres in Malaysia, the SMEs here were less aware of Asean, its economic size and business potential.

“Asean-BAC Malaysia needs to look into matters such as the challenge of access to finance and new technologies, to ensure growth and survival of the SMEs in the state,” he said.

The dialogue session was attended by about 70 participants, including representatives from Sarawak SME Corporation, Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) and the State Economic Planning Unit.

There was a lively discussion on the future of business in Sarawak in an environment of technological change and also from the development of the new Indonesian capital in Kalimantan.

The issue of many existing institutions not engaging and providing sufficient information to business enterprises was raised, as well as that of existing regional arrangements such as BIMP-EAGA (Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area) which was not really being actively driven ahead.

SME Corp Sarawak director Ismail Hashim made a presentation on SME Corporation and the 177 programmes it had pursued in 2019, spending RM13.8 billion.

Despite this, it was revealed that these opportunities for financing were not sufficiently known or taken up by SMEs.

Asean-BAC council member Raja Singham, who is also Malaysian lead mentor in Asean-BAC’s AMEN (Asean Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network) programme, shared his experiences in building the BAC Education Group into one of the largest private education companies in the region.

He also offered to share the experiences and resources of his group with budding entrepreneurs from Sarawak.

Munir said many of the issues raised were not strictly within the remit of Asean-BAC, but those that were, such as entrepreneurship development could be partly addressed by the AMEN programme.

As a member of the Prime Minister’s Economic Action Council (EAC), he also undertook to bring up some of the other issues at the national level.

Yesterday, Munir paid a courtesy call on the Chief Minister of Sarawak Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, where he discussed some national economic issues as well as specific business initiatives that could be made in Sarawak.

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p style=”margin: 0px;font-family: roboto, sans-serif;font-size: 14px”>He also visited Serba DigitalX in Kota Samarahan, an up and coming incubation centre which has taken up the chief minister’s call for a Digital Sarawak.

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