A total of RM18.4 billion has been allocated to benefit small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the country for 2013, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak said today.

The amount is being used to fund 155 programmes, which are expected to benefit more than 465,000 SMEs.

In his speech read out by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar at the SME Annual Showcase 2013 (SMIDEX), Najib said the government’s track record regarding SMEs is strong.

“One of our key policy aims is to encourage the vibrant growth of our SMEs.

“In an open economy, change will only happen if efforts by the government are embraced and enhanced by the private sector. SMEs are an integral part of this story,” he said.

Najib said the government had in 2012 implemented 133 programmes involving RM7bil towards the building of SMEs in the country.

“The increase in allocations this year, including RM8bil of private sector funding, is a strong head start for a private sector-led economy we envision for Malaysia, where the government becomes more of a facilitator and mediator, and private enterprise takes charge,” he said.

The prime minister also said in order to take full advantage of Malaysia’s shift to becoming a high-income nation and stay competitive, SMEs need to match government support with investment of their own.

“They need to improve their efficiency, reduce production costs and enhance the reputation and brand image of their products.

“We also need to encourage small Malaysian service providers to merge into larger entities to build up the competitiveness of the smaller entities,” he said.

SMIDEX 2013, which ended today, was organised by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry and SME Corporation Malaysia.

Deputy Minister Datuk Hamim Samuri said that as of yesterday (June 13), a total of 147 business matching sessions were pre-arranged between SMEs and potential business partners.

“Sales value at RM293 million have been successfully negotiated,” he added.

Hamim further said since the conference’s inception in 1997, it has become the best avenue to display and exhibit Malaysian SMEs, their products and services.

“Themed SMEs – Changing the Game, SMIDEX 2013 is aimed at increasing awareness among SMEs and the public on how innovation can change and improve the efficiency of business operations,” he said.

At the ceremony, technology company Romstar Sdn Berhad was awarded the Most Innovative SME Award 2013, taking home an RM1 million cash prize.