Optimism about the medium-term business outlook is keeping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Malaysia on track with their plans to expand their businesses domestically and across the region, according to a recent survey conducted by United Overseas Bank (Malaysia) Bhd (UOB). The UOB SME Survey 2012 found that 41 per cent of SMEs are cautiously optimistic about the business outlook for the next three years; with another quarter (28 per cent) saying they are positively optimistic. Respondents said that their confidence in the medium-term growth potential for the SME sector was supported by strong economic fundamentals (24 per cent), the Government’s Transformation Programmes (18 per cent) and the ease of access to doing business (17 per cent). These factors are key to supporting the expansion plans of two-thirds of SMEs (66 per cent) who said they wanted to grow their businesses over the next three years. Of these, more than half (55 per cent) say they are expanding their businesses within Malaysia while 20 per cent are venturing further into ASEAN countries. SMEs hoping to tap these opportunities can look to UOB to provide a wide range of financing options. The Bank also has a special advisory team that provides contract financing services for SMEs that are bidding for contracts under Malaysia’s Economic Transformation Programme (ETP). To date, UOB has provided financing for ETP-related infrastructure projects such as the integrated urban mass rapid transit system, the extension lines under the light rapid transit system and the low cost carrier terminal projects. The UOB SME Survey 2012 also found SMEs top two wishes for the 2013 Budget are for the government to make it easier for them to have access to loans and financing (34 per cent), as well as for tax incentives that will help their expansion plans (30 per cent) and cushion them from potential risks in the uncertain global economic environment. Respondents ranked the SME Financing Fund (40 per cent) and the SME Revitalisation Fund (37 per cent) as the top two government initiatives that were most likely to have a positive impact on SME growth. The respondents noted that such funds provided them with better access to financing, especially for business expansion. The UOB SME Survey 2012 was conducted among 450 Malaysian SME owners across multiple sectors to seek their views on business and economic conditions, and key business priorities for 2013.