Malaysian census: Time to take stock

  • Living
  • Tuesday, 06 Sep 2016

In the business world, five years is considered a long time and certainly, the way in which people do business can change a lot in that period of time. The national economic census – conducted by the Department of Statistics Malaysia – is held once every five years and the 2016 exercise is expected to give insight on new trends and areas of growth in the Malaysian business world.

The main objective of the economic census is to get comprehensive information on the economic activities in the country, which will help in the formulation of national policies.

In the past five years, the landscape has changed especially with the rapid growth of the Internet. Today almost everyone has access to the Internet via smartphones. The ecosystem is markedly different from when the Economic Census 2011 was conducted, said Chief Statistician of Malaysia Datuk Dr Abdul Rahman Hasan.

Based on an Information and Communication Technology Satellite Account (ICTSA) report, e-Commerce activities generated a value added of RM63.8bil and contributed 5.8% to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2014 as compared wtih 5.4% in 2013. In the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP), contribution of e-Commerce to GDP is targeted at 6.4% or RM114bil by 2020.

E-Commerce is expanding rapidly in Malaysia due to the increasing use of the Internet.

Chief Statistician Malaysia Datuk Dr Abdul Rahman Hasan at his office in Putrajaya. Photo: The Star/Mohd Sahar Misni
Chief Statistician Malaysia Datuk Dr Abdul Rahman Hasan at his office in Putrajaya. Photo: The Star/Mohd Sahar Misni

Through this census, we can gauge if businesses are immersing themselves in e-Commerce, or if traditional business methods are still going strong.

Last April, the Statistics Department launched the Economic Census 2016 (for the reference year of 2015) and the exercise is expected to end this November.

The census will involve about 700,000 companies and businesses that are registered with the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM), professional associations, Cooperative Commission of Malaysia (SKM), local authorities of Sabah and Sarawak, and agro entrepreneurs registered with the Ministry of Agri­culture and Agro-based Industries.

At 75.2%, the services sector (excluding distributive trade) has the highest coverage in Economic Census 2016, followed by the construction sector (10.9%), manufacturing (10.6%), agriculture (2.8%) and the mining and quarrying sector (0.5%). As of today, Economic Census questionnaires have been distributed to all registered companies and businesses. The respondents are given a month to complete the questionnaire. If they fail to respond within a month, officers will then pay these companies a visit.

Dr Abdul Rahman said the census is governed by the Statistics Act 1965 (Revised 1989), which states that all companies are compelled to provide the required information to the department.

Should the company be found guilty of being uncooperative, a penalty not exceeding RM500 will be imposed, and they will be charged RM500 maximum continually each day until the respondents cooperate.

“I think the public knows that it is mandatory to participate in a census, so I do not really foresee many problems,” says Dr Abdul Rahman. “After all, the findings of the Economic Census doesn’t just help the government in planning policies, but also businesses plan their own strategies and direction. It is a win-win situation,” he says.

He stresses that businesses should not worry about divulging their information to the Department of Statistics as it will be kept confidential, and this is provided for under Section 4 (2) of the Statistics Act 1965 (Revised 1989). “The information provided by the businesses is only published at aggregate level, so there is no need to worry,” Dr Abdul Rahman says.

StateGDPInternationally, the economic census is also conducted every five years and this is practised by developed nations like United States, Britain and Japan. Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam are two other Asean countries conducting their economic census this year.

“In Malaysia, besides using it as a basis for calculating the GDP, the census will also help us assess the impact of our national development programmes and policies such as the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) and the 11MP,” Dr Abdul Rahman says.

As we head towards 2020, and our aim of attaining high-income nation status, the data gathered from Economic Census 2016 will help the government to make post-2020 plans.

“Statistics,” Dr Abdul Rahman says, “is like fertiliser to a tree. The better the fertiliser, the more productive the tree is, with lots of blooming flowers and fruits. Therefore, the Economic Census is like fertiliser to the policy makers. The better the statistics, the better the policies which can be developed,” he says.

The economic census will also help to gauge the performance of the ever-expanding SME sector in the country, which is being driven by the Master Plan of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) 2012-2020. Based on Economic Census 2011, about 97% of business establishments are SMEs.

Economic Census 2016

In 2015, SME is estimated to contribute 36.3% to the GDP, 65.5% to employment and 17.6% to total exports. Data from this census will help to observe the changes within the five years and become an input to assess the performance for planning, and also strengthening the SMEs industrial development programme, said Dr Abdul Rahman.

Other newer aspects that are being explored in this census include environmental compliance and the hiring of Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) graduates.

“We will be able to see how far Malaysian companies have followed the international standards of environmental compliance in their business practices.

“As for TVET, it is a new area which the Government has devoted a lot of attention into. In the census we will find out many businesses employ graduates of the TVET system,” said Dr Abdul Rahman.

The result of Economic Census 2016 is expected to be released by June 2017. The results will be made accessible for free to all businesses on an interactive portal that we will launch in conjunction with Economic Census 2016, says Dr Abdul Rahman.

The exercise is estimated to cost RM50mil and some 2,000 enumerators have been hired to conduct the census. These are temporary staff, additional to the existing Statistics Department staff, who will be involved in the validation and computing process later.

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