KUCHING: The development and growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) – which make up a large majority of registered businesses in Malaysia – will remain a top priority for the government, both at the federal and state levels.

Highlighting this, state Minister of Industrial Development Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan said SMEs represented the backbone of the economic growth at both state and national levels with 645,136 companies (97.3 per cent) out of the total 662,939 registered in the country.

“To accelerate the growth of SMEs and widen the scope of industrial arenas all over the country, the government will prepare various activities to develop and vitalise the growth of SMEs,” Awang Tengah said at yesterday’s sitting of the State Legislative Assembly.

“Among them are capacity and capability building programmes, financial facilities in the form of grants and loans, promotional and marketing programmes and the availability of industrial lots with comprehensive infrastructural facilities and flexible payment terms.”

With regards to financial facilities, Malaysian Industrial Development Finance Bhd (MIDF) had set aside a RM50 million fund this year involving three loan schemes for SMEs in Sarawak, noted Awang Tengah who is also Second Minister of Resource Planning and Environment as well as Minister of Public Utilities.

For the financial year 2012, MIDF had approved 22 loans worth a total of RM12.3 million in the food and beverage sector and wood based products while for the year to date, it had approved five loans totalling RM4.9 million under the SME loan scheme, he added.