An inclusive approach to government initiatives to promote entrepreneurship goes a long way towards enhancing a sense of belonging, writes Mustafa K Anuar.
The step taken by Putrajaya recently to stop dishing out grants to bumiputera entrepreneurs is in the right direction, especially given the government’s budgetary constraints.
In addition, the move is expected to stem practices of abuse – such as rent-seeking activities and buying things unrelated to the business venture – and the emergence of a culture of entitlement among those involved in entrepreneurship programmes.
The importance placed by the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development on entrepreneurship in the development of the national economy is well exemplified by its declared goal to produce a million small and medium enterprise entrepreneurs, including those from the bottom 40% group, in the next few years.
While this objective is noble, it is crucial to remind ourselves that not anyone and everyone can be an entrepreneur as this business endeavour requires a person of a certain calibre and moral fibre. In other words, there ought to be a proper and strict process to identify, pick and train qualified high-potential applicants.
For one thing, entrepreneurship demands an individual who is ambitious enough to take business risks in the hope that they will yield handsome returns.
Apart from having an innovative business idea, the individual must also be energetic, assertive, confident, hardworking and optimistic – characteristics that are inimical to those who are inclined to perceive grants as financial and psychological crutches.
Hence, it is only proper that a substantial amount of money be allocated by the ministry for training, guidance and start-up capital funding for those who are well prepared and poised to be entrepreneurs. In short, vital facilities to nurture genuine entrepreneurship.
And for business-attuned individuals from the bottom 40% group, such entrepreneurship programmes not only help generate new wealth, but also take them and their families out of the vicious cycle of economic hardship.
New markets can be developed with the emergence of the latest products, services or technologies arising from entrepreneurship, apart from creating employment opportunities.
Given the business potential and wealth creation associated with entrepreneurship, it is expected that these programmes are targeted at bumiputeras as part of the larger objective to narrow the socioeconomic gap between them and non-bumiputeras.
Having said so, we trust that the ministry provides similar assistance to people of other ethnicities as well.
While it is acknowledged that qualified bumiputeras should be given the necessary government assistance, such aid should also be accorded to individuals of other races, so that the benefits of entrepreneurship endeavours can be felt by all the communities in multi-ethnic Malaysia. Indeed, this is one way to give meat to the promise of “shared prosperity” as promoted by the Pakatan Harapan administration.
As we celebrate the 62nd anniversary of Malayan independence and the 56th anniversary of Malaysia’s formation, it is incumbent upon the PH government to serve the socioeconomic, educational and technological needs of all stakeholders in the country, irrespective of their ethnicity, religion and cultural background.
More importantly, an inclusive approach to government initiatives goes a long way towards enhancing the sense of belonging among those who see themselves as bona fide and proud Malaysians.