ECER Launches Entrepreneur Development Programme

Kuala Lumpur, 16 August, 2011 – The East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC) embarks on a new initiative to enhance its ECER Entrepreneurship Development Programme (EEDP) with the introduction of the ‘Bumiputera Commercial and Industrial Community (BCIC) and SME Leveraging Fund.

Under this new initiative approved by ECERDC’s council chaired by YAB Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Abdul Razak, the Fund will be used to top-up the difference between the commercial interest rates imposed by commercial banks and the interest rates intended for ECER’s EEDP.

This new initiative will step up government and private partnership where the private sector plays a key role in providing loan funds for entrepreneurship development programme. The implementation of the ‘BCIC and SME Leveraging Fund’ to promote entrepreneurs and SMEs in the east coast states was formalised with ECERDC signing agreements with Agrobank and SIRIM Berhad respectively today.

Witnessed by Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department; the agreements were signed by ECERDC’s CEO, Dato’ Jebasingam Issace John while Agrobank by its CEO Wan Mohd Fadzmi bin Wan Othman and SIRIM Berhad by its Acting President and Chief Executive Dr Zainal Abidin bin Mohd Yusof.

The agreement between ECERDC and Agrobank will see the latter assist all EEDP entrepreneurs shortlisted by ECERDC and SIRIM with regards to their soft or micro loan applications. Agrobank will offer to EEDP entrepreneurs at a special interest rate, using the topping up mechanism by ECERDC.

As for the agreement with ECERDC, SIRIM will develop and implement projects under the EEDP. It will jointly with ECERDC select entrepreneurs and provide training for the various programmes as well as assist entrepreneurs in certification and marketing.

The BCIC and SME Leveraging Fund is a revolving fund to support initiatives to grow BCIC entrepreneurs and SMEs within the ECER. The Fund will be used to handhold the entrepreneurs via activities such as training, research and development, certification and marketing in order to bring the entrepreneurs to greater heights.

“Entrepreneurs and SMEs face many challenges. Besides access to finance, they need guidance, marketing and branding skills, attention to value added activities, technology capability and ability to tap into networking opportunities,” said Tan Sri Nor Mohamed.

He said it was very fitting that ECER provided networking opportunities throughout the value chain as well as monitoring via its strategic partnership and development of soft skills.

“As ECERDC’s partner, Agrobank will be continuing its mandate to encourage entrepreneurship and tap into government funds which include Fund for Food, Agriculture Entrepreneurship Funds and Youth Trade Fund.

“The ECERDC’s EEDP programme will also have a leg up because Agrobank has branches in all districts, throughout the east coast states,” Tan Sri Nor Mohamed pointed out.

The Minister added that SIRIM was a natural fit with the ECERDC as it was also empowered by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry to grow entrepreneurs and SMEs under its “Groom Big” initiatives.

“I am also pleased to announce that, we have identified 6 successful entrepreneurs who will be recognised for their outstanding efforts under the EEDP,” said Nor Mohamed.

“The ECER master plan has identified the development of SMEs as an important element of economic growth for the east coast states. While increasing the number of entrepreneurs and SMEs, the spin-off effect of jobs and business opportunities are expected to be substantial,” said Dato’ Jebasingam Issace John.

“At the same time, EEDP will create entrepreneurs who can scale up the value chain and become more competitive.

“To ensure that the fund is utilised by deserving candidates, SIRIM will take on the role of selecting the applicants while Agrobank shall apply its commercial loan evaluation. We estimate that the partnership will benefit at least 100 BCIC entrepreneurs and SMEs from ECER by end 2012,” said Dato’ Issace.

“This initiative is exciting for Agrobank as it will grow the pool of entrepreneurs in ECER Malaysia while increasing our bank’s commercial loans. At the same time, the monitoring of these entrepreneurs’ progress by SIRIM and ECERDC will go some way in ensuring the success of this programme,” said Wan Mohd Fadzmi bin Wan Othman.

Agrobank will provide SME loans of between RM50,000 and RM250,000 as well as Micro Credit loans of up to RM50,000 to entrepreneurs with a maximum tenure of 60 months in ECER’s key sectors.

“SIRIM takes great pride in helping the ECER develop more entrepreneurs. Our job is to mentor these individuals in business analysis, applying for funds, training, spotting business opportunities, and marketing so that they can stand on their own feet,” said Dr. Zainal Abidin bin Mohd Yusof.

SIRIM is an accredited body that issues certification for quality and has experience in managing government funds for entrepreneurship. It has operations in every east coast state.

Dato Issace added the programme has been extended to the participants of Empower Bentong, another successful ECER project to generate higher income. Some 50 participants from Empower Bentong who have been groomed for more than a year by Pertubuhan Kemajuan Sosial Malaysia (PKSM) and ECERDC have shown great promise as entrepreneurs, and will be enrolled under the EEDP.

Under the EEDP, ECERDC initiated two pilot projects in Mersing that is implemented by GIATMARA Sdn Bhd – the Boat Building and Repair Centre (BBRC) and the Sewing Project with which commenced in 2010. To date, the EEDP initiative has assisted four entrepreneurs and created employment for 30 locals.

Meanwhile, ECERDC’s Empower Programme which is in collaboration with PKSM, has moved into its second phase in Bentong following its successful launch in 2010. The Empower Programme has now been extended to Kuala Lipis, Temerloh, Jeli and Kemaman.

The Empower Programme, which has two elements of training, i.e. academic training for students and skill training for adults, has been impressive in increasing academic achievement and income respectively. It is anticipated there will be 300 entrepreneurs under the Empower Programme by 2012.