If anyone who has been to Seri Kembangan, Serdang, they will notice the vast number of factories and cottage industry thriving, sandwiched between housing estates and massive highways. These are industrial lots gazetted decades ago for aspiring entrepreneurs who have since dabbled into manufacturing, printing and small assembly lines of automotive parts.
However, ever since the pandemic things have not been the same, the once bustling business center is a shadow of its past, passing by you can see double story shoplots up for rent or sale, factory shutters closed and human activity minimal. Printing factory owner Mr. Kam who runs a three lot printing plant has been operating in Serdang for than 2 decades, ever since the pandemic he has seen his business grind to a halt and only to start back with 20% of orders. While he contemplates and hopes business returns, he added that many of his peers have suffered similar consequences and worse, where some have shut their business down. Our survey across other industrial zones shows the situation isn’t much different, SME’s, Micro Business and petty traders are struggling to get their business back in order, many shops and factories are closed or up for rent.
Shockingly many of the owners are not aware of the many initiatives rolled by the government or understand the methods in getting the assistance. Although they qualify, the communication has not reached its intended purpose. Most of the business owners in these vicinities are not highly educates graduates, they are traditional entrepreneurs who built their company’s with sheer hardwork and grind. Growing from a family business to a modest operation with 50-100 employees, expansion would mean buying extra factory lots and hiring more foreign labour. When we asked Kam about the assistance if he had received from the government initiatives like the PRIHATIN, PENJANA, PERMAI and the Wage Subsidy Program, he shrugged his shoulders and told that they were not accessible to him as he does not understand what they are and how to attain them a similar scenario is appearing in other parts of the country. Tengku Zafrul, Minister in the Finance Ministry who has been instrumental in rolling out the Government programs, concurs on the situation faced by some of the businesses. While on field trips to understand what are the problems people faced, he noticed that one of the reasons people were left out of the assistance was the lack of awareness of the packages introduced.
MOF has announced a total of RM305 billion in stimulus packages, including the National Economic Recovery Plan and PRIHATIN both launched to assist enterprises in coping with lockdowns and forced shutdown of operations. The Ministry also established an agency called the Inter- Agencies Economic Stimulus Implementation and Coordination Unit (LAKSANA) to coordinate and implement all the stimulus packages effectively. Clearly, there is still a lot to be done and many pockets of the country in dire need of assistance.
BusinessToday feels there needs to be more concerted efforts to address the communication issue, the plethora of initiatives must be educated to the community more proficiently and made accessible quicker. Ministry officials should understand their target audience and look at ways how to reach them, get association and local Member of Parliament involved, this is not the time to play politics. A granular approach, with all segment of the community not left out- for instance the needs of a petty trader will not be the same as a SME and getting aid across will also be different. Depending on financial institutions alone will not cut-out, they are corporate entities balancing risks and profits and the Ministry will not get a true picture of the ground from their feedbacks.
Malaysia has the funds and has the give these business a lifeline soonest, they need to be dispersed quickly before many more like Kam’s peers contemplate for closing their business for good!