Stop letting foreigners run small businesses, Putrajaya told

Pedestrians walk past rows of shops at Jalan Masjid India in Kuala Lumpur. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: A prominent businessman has urged the government to stop allowing foreigners to operate small businesses, saying such opportunities should be reserved for Malaysians.

Ameer Ali Mydin, the managing director of the Mydin chain of hypermarkets, said he had noticed that foreign nationals were openly engaged in small and medium enterprises and was concerned that the government was apparently tolerating the situation.

He told FMT one could see foreigners operating shops in Jalan Masjid India, Jalan Petaling, Jalan Silang, Selayang and other places in the Klang Valley.

They were also conspicuous on the east coast of the peninsula, he added.

“If foreigners want to open high-end shops, big businesses or franchises, that’s fine,” he said. “Those businesses provide international flavour and jobs for locals.

“But the government shouldn’t allow foreigners to fill the space for small and medium enterprises. This should be reserved for locals to help them grow and put more money in their pockets.”

Ameer said many big businesses like his started off as small, family-owned enterprises.

“How can you get your next Mydin, NSK Trade City or Econsave if you don’t have small local businesses? If foreigners run the small businesses, years down the road you will not have big local businesses.”

Deputy Housing and Local Government Minister Raja Kamarul Bahrin told FMT it would be wrong to assume that foreigners were licensed by local councils to run small businesses.

The problem, he said, was that local business operators would hire foreigners who would more or less run the show.

He also spoke of the likelihood of locals renting out their licences to foreigners but said this would be difficult to prove.

“By right, foreigners should only be employed as workers,” he said.

“When there are checks at business premises, the workers at a shop will be asked to produce the business licence.

“The foreigners will say the business owner, a local, is busy running errands or managing other shops or that he has stepped out. They’ll call the owner, who’ll then come to the shop.”

Raja Kamarul said action would be taken against any shop without a valid licence.

“Our advice to business owners is to employ locals and run their businesses themselves or with the help of their family members,” he said.

“Business owners should be more ethical and not abuse their licences.”

Allowing foreigners to run their businesses, he said, meant an outflow of funds to other countries.

However, he acknowledged that local councils did not carry out checks as often as they should.