Exchanging views over coffee

The seasonal kopitiam discourse will soon commence. Each year around this time right up to October, Malaysians, young and old, will be enthusiastically chipping in with their expectations and analysis of the coming year’s budget announcement at these old-fashioned styled cafés over their regular cuppas.

Just like in previous editions, one can expect plenty of commentaries, critical views and demands articulated on the sidelines, particularly from the local business folks. Possibly recognising the importance of these caffeine-induced thoughts, the government has commendably initiated the pre-Budget 2012 dialogues to be held over the next three months.

According to the Finance Ministry, these dialogues were conceptualised to provide an avenue for business communities, especially the private sector, and industry players to discuss trade-related issues and to provide suggestions and ideas for possible inclusion in the upcoming budget.

Source: http://www.mir.com.my

Throwing out policies in the open for public scrutiny in hope to receive constructive suggestions and feedback is something that Malaysians are getting used to in recent times. As shown through the various implementations under the country’s Economic Transformation Programme and by the Special Taskforce to Facilitate Business (Pemudah), there seems to be more interaction and two-way communication between the government and business operators, which clearly augurs well for the country’s overall economy.

An effort worth noting is Pemudah’s Idea Bank, which encourages SMEs and businesses to submit their complaints, inquiries and suggestions through the agency’s website. A quick scroll around the site revealed feedback pertaining to a wide array of business issues such as enforcing contracts, dealing with licenses, taxation, property registration, patent and trademark acquisition, starting a business, entrepreneur support, legislation updates, credit and financing, immigration matters and facilitating investors.

To fuel the interest of Malaysian entrepreneurs, Lim stated that the government is looking into further reducing corporate tax in the budget to be tabled in Parliament on Oct 7. Any mention of tax reduction will surely bring a smile to those coffee shops’ dwellers.

Another anticipated ‘Budget goodie’ would be the much-welcomed loosening of requirements for the issuance of licences and permits to SMEs as advocated by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak following the release of a World Bank study, which had found that SMEs operating in the country still needed to have too many licences and permits to run their businesses.

Speaking of World Bank, it was fantastic to hear of Capsuco Enterprise being selected among the Top 50 SMEs in an international competition run by World Bank this year for innovation and entrepreneurship. This unheard of 2-year-old start-up company dealing in art, graphics and customised apparel became the only Malaysian company to win the honours in the competition featuring 20,000 SMEs from around the world.

Besides turning in some profit, the entrepreneurs behind Capsuco have also provided more than 200 local graphic artists with an alternative source of income to earn a living while capturing the global audience’s attention to their creations.

Joining those entrepreneurs at the kopitiam, for me – aside from my enduring campaigning for a dedicated SME Ministry – it would be wonderful to hear Najib on Oct 7 proposing the establishment of a SME-only stock exchange, in the likes of the Bombay Stock Exchange that features a separate platform for SMEs as well as the SME Board of the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, which features 531 listed companies at the end of 2010.

With the government spending a total of RM5.9 billion on 219 programmes as part of its SME Integrated Plan of Action for this year and expecting to boost SME contribution to GDP from 31% in 2010 to 40% by 2020, a SME stock exchange would strongly enhance the way SMEs are able to raise money from the market and to provide a direct financing channel for the nation’s growing SMEs.

Being merely a communicator and reader of ‘Economics for Dummies’, would it be wrong of me to assume that this proposition would significantly reduce SMEs over-dependency on government loans, heighten the sense of corporate governance amongst the country’s 99% of business establishments, as well as allow for increased private sector participation in the country’s overall economy?

Or just maybe that these coffee shop talks are pretty nifty after all.


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