KUALA LUMPUR: The Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry foresees more businesses emerging and incorporating digital technology into their operations, as they slowly recover from the pandemic.

Its minister Datuk Seri Alexander Nanta Linggi said the global market has changed tremendously in the past two years and many businesses have turned to unconventional business methods mainly by going online, just to stay afloat.

He said the ministry has taken various initiatives to help businesses cushion any impact resulting from the pandemic, focusing on strengthening the fundamentals of businesses regardless of their nature, shapes and sizes.

"The ministry has taken steps to strengthen business fundamentals to allow Malaysian small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to compete in a modern technological age through the MyDigital Blueprint launched in February 2021.

"We hope to transform Malaysia into a digital economy by 2030, thus we continue to assist businesses to embark on digitalisation programmes leading to an increased adoption and uptake of e-commerce platforms, including the enabling of e-wallet transactions through the ministry's own Retail Digitalisation Initiative (REDI), which was launched in April last year.

"While the pandemic has further accelerated this uptake, much more needs to be done to encourage businesses small and large, to take on this transformative process," he said this in his speech at the KSI Institute for Asia Pacific's 2022 Malaysian Economic and Strategic Outlook Forum this afternoon.

The annual forum held via the Zoom platform featured predictions by experts on Malaysia's and the region's economic outlook for the unfolding year and future economic performance.

Nanta said it was important for local businesses to empower themselves and take on new challenges, in the present competitive market.

"I strongly believe 2022 will easily be a brighter year for all Malaysians as business activities start to pick up," he said.

Nanta said in an interconnected world today where a micro business can have markets internationally, businesses must be willing to explore beyond domestic walls and exploit more lucrative opportunities abroad.

"We must not overlook the fact that our neighbours too have taken proactive steps to undergo digitalisation processes for their businesses. Competition, therefore, is expected to be stiff with the market promising to become more saturated with more and more global players in every sector.

"We must broaden our game in the digital space. Hence, we must go the extra mile to support our local businesses," he said, adding that the government will continue to intensify high-impact campaigns such as the Buy Malaysian Products Campaign and Mega Sales Programme to push Malaysian made products.

He said local businesses are no longer competing with others in the domestic market, especially when the most basic of household items or niche items, can be bought seamlessly on e-commerce platforms.

"In short, we can no longer remain comfortable and operate business as usual in this interconnected global market. Instead, we need to find new value propositions for our customers if we hope to sustain their patronage."

Nanta said the ministry was aware of the struggles faced by businesses and consumers with escalating prices, particularly the cost of food products.

"This is a global issue where the price hike happened due to rampant demand for goods and services that met bottlenecks due to supply chain disruptions.

'While many of these price increases are caused by external factors beyond the government's control, we are, nonetheless, doing our best to contain the situation.

"We also acknowledge that for households with low disposable income levels where food expenditure is a large share of the budget, rising food prices have resulted in reduced purchasing power and may force difficult budgetary trade-offs," he said adding that the government is taking a holistic approach to tackle all related factors and impacts, in order to retain purchasing power during periods of rising food prices.

Among the programmes launched by the ministry were 'Keluarga Malaysia' Maximum Price Scheme and the Keluarga Malaysia Sales Programme (PJKM) targeted at the B40 and M40 residential areas, where discounts between 20 to 50 percent are given to ease people's financial burden since Dec.

The programme has attracted 628,175 visitors at 411 locations nationwide with a recorded sales of RM12.56 million to date.

"With a budget allocation of RM100 million, this programme will be carried out until March this year. Meanwhile to mitigate the inflation issue, the government has also allocated RM33 million under the 2022 Federal Budget to revitalise the trade distribution sector.

"The ministry is pursuing the micro and affordable franchise development programme to elevate deserving businesses with grants to enable them to develop their own franchise. This will help aspiring franchise industry players from the B40 and M40 groups to develop more attractive franchise packages worth RM100,000 and micro franchise packages worth RM50,000 and below," said Nanta.

He added that there were many more initiatives in the pipeline.