KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 22 — Asean has reinforced its commitment to strengthen small and medium enterprises (SMEs) through various initiatives, including meeting their financing needs, raising productivity and embracing innovation that will help them emerge as regional and global champions.
The realisation of Asean as an integrated economic community has opened the door of potential benefits for SMEs in the region as they are no longer constrained by national borders.
Given the large consumer base in Asean, SMEs can utilise the grouping as a platform, developing their own intra-regional connection to strengthen competitiveness before entering the global market.
The next phase of the Asean economic integration process is expected to focus on enhancing the role of SMEs in contributing towards greater cross-border economic activities, with policy initiatives being geared to ensure that SMEs in the region will be plugged into the regional and global value chains.
During the Asean Economic Ministers’ Meeting in August 2015, all Asean member states concluded that SMEs would continue to be the engine of growth for Asean and would assume a significant role in terms of the bloc’s economic development.
SMEs remain the main pillar of Asean economic growth, contributing between 28 and 58 per cent of the Asean combined gross domestic product (GDP) amounting to US$2.57 trillion (RM10.989 trillion).
They constitute up to 96 per cent of registered businesses, employing up to 97 per cent of the working population in Asean member states, contributing up to 85 per cent of the GDP of countries in the region.
Being the back-bone of economic development for almost every Asean country, Asean leaders are aware that more initiatives should be given in order to continue to spur the growth of the SME industry.
All the measures were stipulated in the ambitious Asean Strategic Action Plan for SME Development 2016-2025 and the long-awaited Growth Accelerator Exchange (GAX) platform unveiled at the 27th Asean Summit.
GAX, which was launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on Friday, is an initiative by the Asean Business Advisory Council (ABAC), designed to cater for the financing needs of Asean SMEs.
Providing digital finance infrastructure for SMEs, GAX comes with the main objective of navigating and overcoming challenges that limit SMEs’ ability to grow.
The Asean Strategic Action Plan for SME Development (2016-2025), which was launched at the Asean Business and Investment Summit on Saturday, is an extension of the achievements of the 2010-2015 Action Plan which charted six key policy dimensions.
Consisting of five strategic goals, each to be led by a selected Asean member state, the document is expected to strengthen cooperation among Asean SME development agencies and positively impact the development of domestic SMEs.
The plan will also include measures to facilitate a deeper integration among SMEs to grow their base into regional and global supply chains.
The document also envisaged the establishment of an Asean SME Service Centre to link SMEs within Asean, including enterprises, traders, suppliers, manufacturers and consumers. — Bernama