KUALA LUMPUR — When Malaysian entrepreneur Majidah Hashim quit her corporate job and set up a business two years ago helping people with autism make handcrafted teas with local herbs and flowers, the government stepped in to assist.

Ms Majidah was one of dozens of social entrepreneurs who received grants from Malaysia’s government as part of a 2015 national plan to boost the number of businesses with a mission to help people or the environment to 1,000 by 2018 from 100.

This assistance let her get SevenTeaOne up and running, one of many social enterprises started in Malaysia in recent years.

The country was ranked the ninth best country to be a social entrepreneur in a 2016 poll of 45 nations conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and funded by Deutsche Bank.

But Ms Majidah said the help was short-lived, fuelling concerns in Malaysia as well as elsewhere in South-east Asia that official encouragement of the sector was stumbling as businesses were found to need more guidance a

nd time than expected to succeed.

“It was like they were pregnant with us, they gave birth and they left us there,” Ms Majidah told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The RM20 million (S$6.75 million) plan has so far pushed the number of social enterprises up to about 200, according to the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC), a government unit tasked with running the project.

This has led to concerns in South-east Asia’s third largest economy that momentum to build the social enterprise sector is fizzing out with patchy official support and issues like a lack of funding and financial sustainability.

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