TAWAU, Feb 15 — The adoption of e-wallet digital payments among Malaysia’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can spur the competitiveness of the sector domestically and internationally, according to an academician at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS). 

Its Labuan International Finance Faculty senior lecturer Dr Suzillah Sidek said, e-wallet could directly increase the contribution of SMEs to the nation’s income and boost the development of the digital economy in Malaysia.

“One of the moves by the government to propel the contribution of SMEs to the country’s income is through the speeding up of its transformation to the digital economy.

“Based on information from the Department of Statistics Malaysia, the government aims SMEs’ contribution to the nation’s income to increase to 41 per cent in 2020,” she told Bernama.

The Finance Ministry in 2020 Budget has allocated RM450 million to launch the e-Tunai Rakyat initiative, in an effort to boost e-wallet adoption and digital payment in the country.

The government has selected Touch ‘n Go eWallet, Boost and GrabPay to participate in the initiative as service providers based on their large number of active users and extensive merchant networks, technical expertise as well as financial and manpower strength to build the necessary systems, processes and procedures, among others.

On the safety aspect of the initiative, Suzillah said, e-Tunai Rakyat will not lead to privacy and personal data breaches as it employed the same implementation mechanism for the Cost of Living Aid (BSH) and Haj subsidy to Malaysian.

Nevertheless, the limitation of the internet’s network especially in interior Sabah could influence the effectiveness and success of e-Tunai Rakyat initiative.

“The success of e-Tunai Rakyat should not depend wholly on the number of application received, but it also needs to consider the involvement of Malaysians on the initiative as well,” according to her.  

In a survey, Bernama found that e-wallet adoption among SMEs has been encouraging, with locals especially those below 40 years-old possessed relevant knowledge about the mechanism surrounding the cashless payment.  

An employee of a souvenir shop, Ole-Ole Tawau, Siti Aisha Tahang, 21, said, her shop utilises e-wallet payment since last September, in addition to the normal cash transaction. 

“Customers who came to the shop are mostly youngsters, settled their payment using Boost,” she said of her shop, which is located at Ba Zhong Centre and sells food-related products such as Crispy Bilis, Belinjo, Bangke dan Kecipok. 

As an employee, among the positive aspects of e-wallet is, she does not have to worry about cash being stolen from the cash register machine in the event of an unwanted incident such as a shop theft.

For home-based bread and pastries entrepreneur, Liyana Khalid, 33, e-wallet presented her with the ease of doing business as well as saving her precious time.

“With QR Code, my customer can purchase cakes by scanning the QR to make a payment.

“Previously, I was having trouble paying back the money due to the lack of change, but with Boost, I didn’t have to worry and it also saved me more time than needing to go to the bank to save money,” she said.

Meanwhile, in Semporna, most SME entrepreneurs use Alipay e-wallets as tourists from China are more likely to use the application.

A cendol hawker at Jalan Seafest in Semporna, Omar Hashim, 45, said Chinese tourists who frequented his business made payments through Alipay.

“I have to use Alipay because if I don’t, I will lose out as Chinese tourists like my Cendol, besides it is also a promotion for my cafe,” he said, who also sell other local delicacies.

Nooraisah Muhamah Baba, 32, a private-sector worker said,  digital payment system gave her freedom to make transactions at any time without having to withdraw money from the bank.

However, she said, the government needs to beef up internet access in rural areas if the country want to realised its objective of becoming a cashless country.



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