SMEs need to innovate and compete in foreign markets, says Wee

SUBANG JAYA (The Star/ANN) - Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) must develop their own value-added products and start exporting overseas, said Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong.

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said SMEs contributed 18% of Malaysia’s exports and it is expected to increase to 25% by 2020.

“I urge SMEs to embrace the digital economy and innovate. Those that do not innovate will perish,” he said during the launch of a fund-raising campaign for a new building by the SME Association of Malaysia.

Dr Wee highlighted the role of SMEs in driving Malaysia’s economic growth, pointing out that the sector accounted for 65% of total employment and contributed to 37% of the GDP.

He said the Government spared no expense at developing the SME sector, having disbursed RM5.88bil this year for 167 SME development programmes.

“We listen to the grievances of the people. Your problems are our problems, and it is our duty to solve your problems,” he said.

Later at a finance forum held at Menara CIMB, Dr Wee urged SMEs not to rest on their laurels but to be prepared for “mega changes” in an increasingly open global market.

“We cannot look back to the old ways of doing business in the name of protectionism. Doing so will mean going against the currents of the time,” he said.

Organised by CIMB Group and Tsinghua University, the forum centred on opportunities for Malaysia and China entrepreneurs under the Belt and Road initiative.

Dr Wee said China sees Malaysia as a major strategic partner.

He said China was Malaysia’s largest trading partner for the past eight years, with bilateral trade increasing by 32.3% to RM25.21bil in May compared to a year ago.

To ensure SMEs benefit from the Belt and Road initiative, Dr Wee said the Malaysian Government was pushing to grow local e-commerce capabilities.

Meanwhile, the SME Association of Malaysia is aiming to raise RM10mil for its new building.

Dr Wee pledged RM30,000 to the cause and promised to help the association identify a suitable location for the building.