WIEF Foundation: Social enterprises can address B40 issue

By SHAZNI ONG / Pic By TMR File

Social enterprise could be one of the tools to address wealth gap and inequality and promote inclusive economic growth in Malaysia.

“Social entrepreneurship is not a new business model, but its popularity is rapidly gaining momentum worldwide,” said World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) Foundation chairman Tun Musa Hitam (picture).

“It is a noble concept that can become an authentic instrument to help resolve social problems, including the unequal distribution of opportunities that affect particularly those in the B40 (bottom 40%) income bracket,” he said at the AKEPT-WIEF Social Enterprise Forum 2018 in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Musa said social enterprises do not only empower communities, but they bring a positive impact to the economy.

“As people, we’re all social entrepreneurs. And as social entrepreneurs, we strive for positive change whether in the work we do, the increasingly complex environment we live, or the philosophies which guide our lives.

“I say this because we chose to make an impact on the social, cultural and economic landscapes.

“By doing so, we hope to contribute to narrowing the income gap between the urban and rural areas as social entrepreneurs can create new jobs and promote learning and education, thereby elevating living standards,” he said.

Meanwhile, speaking to the media, Musa said Malaysia still faces a big population of people who are economically disadvantaged.

“Poverty that is not in its absolute term, but poverty in general terms in comparison with the whole population, is still in existence.

“Urban poverty is quite serious and I know the government is trying to tackle it. Rural poverty has always been there and again, in relative terms, has not achieve really much in the sense of being as near as possible through development with the urban areas,” he said.

The former deputy prime minister said people had taken social entrepreneurship for granted for a long time, assuming it was the task of the government.

Musa said all existing social enterprises should instead sit down and think of the best ways and means to get together and tackle the problem, especially on poverty.

He, however, admitted that it is not an easy task as it boils down to the question of mentality and commitment.

“Volunteerism means that when you put out social entrepreneurship as a project, it means that you have to get yourself to organise, manage well and identify which are the areas or targets you want to go for.

“It is actually as good as forming a company. So, if you want to set up a company, you do exactly that. Except that when a company makes money, that money is returned to the shareholders.

“But when social entrepreneurship hopefully or so could make money, that money is to be returned to the needy,” he said.

An online poll conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in 2016 saw Malaysia ranked ninth on the list of best places to be a social entrepreneur, placing the country not far from the likes of UK and Canada.

Recently, the Khazanah Research Institute revealed that the gap income between the rich, middle class and poor in Malaysia has widened since 2008.