En­trepreneur­ship – the game changer

POL­ICY MAT­TERS

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP -

WHEN Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ir­wan Seri­gar speaks, he sim­ply rocks. His pre­sen­ta­tion at the In­ter­na­tional Blue Ocean Sym­po­sium bris­tled with en­ergy. He spoke about the Blue Ocean Strat­egy, but more con­vinc­ing were his thoughts on en­trepreneur­ship, ef­fi­ciency and pro­duc­tiv­ity.

Ir­wan is sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the Trea­sury, Min­istry of Fi­nance, a man who must ex­ert enor­mous in­flu­ence over the coun­try’s eco­nomic poli­cies.

It is in­ter­est­ing that he should be in­ter­ested in en­trepreneur­ship and creativ­ity. Then again, as an econ­o­mist it prob­a­bly comes nat­u­rally.

Here is a man who nor­mally works at the macro level, go­ing to the roots of the econ­omy. In­deed, it is most apt be­cause as most text­books will tell you, the gov­ern­ment is not in the busi­ness of pro­duc­ing.

It is com­pa­nies that pro­duce and it is they who are pro­duc­tive or not. Pro­duc­tiv­ity goes back to the ef­fi­ciency of a firm. For ease of speak­ing, we may re­fer to the pro­duc­tiv­ity of a coun­try.

Sim­i­larly, a coun­try, as an en­tity, does not in­no­vate. It is the com­pa­nies that in­no­vate.

Econ­o­mists, mis­tak­enly, at­tribute in­no­va­tion to a coun­try; they call it “to­tal fac­tor pro­duc­tiv­ity”. In­no­va­tion be­longs to com­pa­nies.

If one is talk­ing about pro­duc­tiv­ity, creativ­ity and in­no­va­tion, then one goes back to the com­pany.

That is why, aside from be­ing an en­thu­si­as­tic speaker, Ir­wan has some­thing perti­nent to say: we must re­visit the no­tion of en­trepreneur­ship.

There are sev­eral lev­els at which en­trepreneur­ship can work. Th­ese re­late to the in­come level of the in­tended groups.

En­trepreneur­ship at the lower end of the eco­nomic scale en­com­passes mi­cro fi­nance. It runs up, at the next level, to en­cour­ag­ing small and medium en­ter­prises.

Ini­tia­tives on en­trepreneur­ship should also in­clude en­cour­ag­ing ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists and start-ups.

In the US, up to 50% of the star­tups are due to In­di­ans, and a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion comes from the Euro­peans. Na­tion­al­ity does not mat­ter in stim­u­lat­ing en­trepreneur­ship: the na­tion gains.

Mov­ing down to Malaysia, sev­eral com­ments can be made.

First, di­rect­ing pol­icy at­ten­tion to en­trepreneur­ship can be an ef­fec­tive way of side-step­ping prob­lems such as one’s ini­tial level of en­dow­ments and that of eth­nic ori­gins. It can also avoid or min­imise the role of the gov­ern­ment.

Is the US model an ap­pro­pri­ate one for Malaysia since they leave en­trepreneurs to face the harsh­ness of the en­vi­ron­ment with­out any mol­ly­cod­dling from the gov­ern­ment?

At the other end of the spec­trum we would find en­trepreneur­ship that is to­tally spon­sored by the gov­ern­ment. This would de­gen­er­ate into another BR1M scheme.

In the Malaysian case, en­trepreneur­ship creation should aim at wean­ing busi­nesses to find­ing their own lev­els and feet.

This must be done across all sec­tions. The spirit of en­trepreneur­ship should be in­cul­cated among sin­gle moth­ers and farm­ers; those in the mid­dle 40, who need the ex­tra in­come; and those who want to lever­age on their tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise.

With­out get­ting en­tan­gled in con­cep­tual is­sues, there is no doubt that the gov­ern­ment is on the right track when it comes to en­cour­ag­ing en­trepreneur­ship.

It has launched a few projects to kick-start en­trepreneurs, one of them be­ing MaGIC, an ini­tia­tive that is aimed at cre­at­ing start-ups.

Aside from a few iso­lated at­tempts at cre­at­ing en­trepreneurs it would be worth­while to know if there is a broader frame­work that will in­stil a sense of en­trepreneur­ship among the wider pop­u­la­tion.

One won­ders for how long the gov­ern­ment will go on hand­ing out sup­port to sec­tions of the pop­u­la­tion. It is about time that peo­ple are nur­tured about their own sense of en­trepreneur­ship.

This is where Tan Sri Dr Ir­wan, with his huge and ex­cit­ing pro­ject on en­trepreneur­ship, could pos­si­bly be a land­scape transformer.

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