KUALA LUMPUR: Ahead of the tabling of Budget 2021 on Friday, Sage Asia has suggested three strategic fiscal measures to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and the nation as a whole, recover and build resilience.

The leading supplier of accounting and business management software to small and medium sized businesses believes the measures will help the government in its commitment to accelerate the country’s recovery through adoption of digitalisation.

It cited the three courses of action as: intensive incubation programme for SMEs; stimulus to encourage digital payments; and platform for gig economy to help the “jobless” segment.

Sage Asia startup and small business head Azlan Ahmad said the incubation programme has proven to be extremely effective for other Asian markets in their digitalisation journey.

He noted that fully brick-and-mortar SMEs which wanted to go digital have found extensive, step-by-step on boarding assistance to be most important.

“Business owners often do not possess the relevant knowledge on how to effectively leverage e-commerce’s potential. Incubation programmes are incredibly useful in equipping SMEs with the necessary skills for a successful online strategy.

“We suggest incubators specifically for SMEs and small business owners on their next stage of digitalisation. Guidance on what, when and how to continue leveraging technology will lay a strong foundation for them to continue their digitalisation journey into the future,” he said in a statement today.

Nonetheless, Azlan said funding for the programmes is needed to mobilise resources such as software licences, industry expert consultation, help centres, comprehensive user guides, training hubs, technology partner support and a portal for peer-to-peer support.

The second measure is critical in light of the present economic conditions, he said.

Azlan believes accelerating the adoption of e-wallets would curb the spread of Covid-19 given the decreased use of physical cash.

“Increased usage of digital payments also make it quicker for businesses to have an instant influx of e-payments of invoices. In current unprecedented times, it means healthy cash flow, vital to keeping businesses afloat,” he opined.

Additionally, he said, digital payments could drive local businesses towards expanding overseas by enabling them to enact digital trade beyond their borders.

As regard to the third measure related to rising unemployment and growing unutilised labour, Sage Asia said the government could mitigate the situation by driving and financing the development of a dedicated portal to grow the gig economy.

In this instance, it said, the portal may consist of freelancers, project-based workers, independent contractors as well as part-time hires.

“This would be a free market system where temporary positions by industry or skill set could be made available. Struggling businesses would greatly benefit as this would reduce labour overheads incurred with full time employees and enable the jobless to find quick suitable work,” Azlan said.

Though similar platforms are currently available, he said these are yet to become mainstream or enter everyday conversation.

“As moratoriums end, the pressure to find work and income intensifies, this is the most apt time to connect businesses to the gig workforce and enable continued employment and earnings for them,” he said.

Such an agenda championed by the government can greatly help the workforce regain some level of productivity and become a source of economic growth for the nation.

“Private firms like ours, at Sage, are eager to play our part in supporting the ecosystem. We are keen to help businesses leverage continually evolving technology, to better face disruptions and capture unexpected opportunities as we brace for 2021,” he added.