Article by Caroline Hong, which appeared in the August 2013 issue of the My Business magazine and also on MSME news network.
I was recently in Malaysia and it was amazing to watch the political and business news from abroad looking out at Australia away from a different perspective. I learnt about how a second tier city in North Borneo woos business events with its culture, rainforest, nature and people. It is certainly a city worth visiting for both business and relaxation.
Next I attended the fifth Malaysia SME Congress in Kuala Lumpur on the first Wednesday in July, which in Malaysia is officially recognised as SME Day. At this event I participated, met and networked with key SME business owners and association bodies from Europe, Hong Kong, Thailand and Malaysia.
While everyone communicated in fluent English, it was an excellent example of cultural diversity and how everyone could embrace the differences while promoting the SME cause. The Malaysian SME Congress attracted 1,400 SME owners, entrepreneurs, start-ups and SME bodies. It was a special event focused on recognising SMEs as the titans of tomorrow, and as the key drivers and supply chain to the economic success of their nation. Australia has much to learn from our neighbours on how the government and corporate sectors value, support and recognise the importance of SMEs.
It was pleasing to come home to Australia to hear about the Coalition’s policy to boost productivity and reduce regulation. It was welcome news for SMEs in Australia as well as existing and potential overseas SME investors in the Australian business economy. The Coalition’s policy claims that it will boost productivity and reduce regulation, and hence will also lower business costs, generate more jobs and strengthen the Australian economy.
The SMEAA still cannot comprehend why there has been a proliferation of regulations in recent years, forcing SME business owners to chase red and green tape for the sake of often unnecessary compliance. In recent years we’ve seen 21,000 additional regulations introduced, perhaps guided badly by excessive policy makers who never really understood life as a business owner. We trusted the government to cap the growth of regulation with a ‘one-in, one-out’ policy, and SMEs are still waiting and hoping that change will happen.
On a more positive note, SMEs will get the support they need to take up new opportunities in Asian markets under a new AUD36m (US$32.9m) national investment in a new National Centre for Asia Capability, which will be based in Melbourne and Sydney with funding provided for national program delivery through the University of Melbourne’s Asialink. Trade Minister Richard Marles and Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr said the new National Centre for Asia Capability will act as a hub, drawing existing resources together to better use their potential, and it will tap into the expertise of business and community organisations, peak bodies, training providers and business councils to help business leaders develop a deeper knowledge and expertise of Asian countries and cultures.
If all that’s true, the centre will also forge new partnerships to help businesses develop the Asia-relevant capabilities they need to better access growing markets in our region.
There is still a very strong belief that the future growth in business opportunities lies in Asia and enterprising SMEs don’t want to miss the boat and risk facing broken promises that government will provide the solutions.
I hope that I am wrong here and that change will happen and that one day Australia will appoint a Minister for SMEs.
With acknowledgement and thanks to MyBusinesshttp://www.mybusiness.com.au
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My Business is the official publication of the SME Association of Australia http://www.smeaustralia.asn.au