IT IS timely to reflect upon what has been done at the Ministry of Youth and Sports. The past two years has not been without its challenges. When the new administration came into office we had to familiarize ourselves with the mechanisms of Government. From post-cabinet meetings to monitoring policy implementation and answering in Parliament, it was a steep learning curve.
In the case of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, we had to undo a large number of direct negotiation contracts that were not always in favour of the Government. In sports, we had a perennial problem with the low number of international-level athletes. This in part came from systemic weaknesses in access to quality support for athletes. Among youth, our problems include poor representation in politics and the perennial issue of youth unemployment. These are challenges that cannot be resolved easily.
We have a simple vision. To maximize the individual potential of youths as catalysts of the country’s growth as well as to shape a sporting nation, one that embraces sports as a lifestyle.
Under our administration we have three areas of focus with supplementing strategies including uplifting the Youth of Malaysia, raising Malaysia’s Global Competitiveness in Sports and improving delivery in the ministry.
The first area is in uplifting the youth of Malaysia. Malaysia is a relatively young country with a median age of 28.9 years in 2019 from 28.6 years in 2018, according to the Department of Statistics Malaysia. Although the population is becoming marginally older, youths remain a significant majority and with the Constitutional Amendment under the Undi18 bill, have increasing relevance in democracy. It is vital then that the ministry empowers youths.
The first strategy under this larger goal is increasing youth participation in democracy. Evidenced not just by Undi18 but in the introduction of the Malaysian Future Leaders School, which to date has trained 29,443 youth community leaders from all walks fo life. We have also continued and improved upon the Perdana Fellowship programme, for aspiring political leaders, of which I was a participant.
Our second strategy is in enhancing the social mobility of marginalized and underprivileged youth. Thus far, one of our main beneficiaries has been former offenders. Through the Yellow Ribbon project, as many as 1,583 former inmates have been upskilled in collaboration with the Malaysian Resources Corporation Berhad.
Our goal with this project is to not just upskill former inmates but to remove social stigma, everyone deserves a second lease at life. Under this strategy, we have also given greater emphasis on technical and vocational education and training (TVET).
The Ministry is part of the larger TVET empowerment committee that works on a cross-ministerial basis. We have also worked hard to increase the average salary of our TVET graduates, and it has increased by 15 percent. More needs to be done but it is important that we keep the momentum on TVET as we progress into a developed nation.
Our third strategy is in creating recognition of youths in the workforce by ensuring fair work practices for youths. Beginning with compulsory paid internships within the Government and its agencies in Malaysia, we have also increased salaries for student trainees in industries from RM300 a month to RM900 a month. We have also created several other programmes like the [email protected], [email protected] and Corporate Fellowship.
The second area of focus involves raising Malaysia’s global competitiveness in sports. We have a four-pronged strategy. Firstly, improving government support of athletes, recognizing new areas in sports, increasing inclusivity in sports and promoting sports as a lifestyle amongst Malaysians.
In terms of Government support of athletes, our focus is on increasing funding for athletes, improving education and career pathways and supporting athlete welfare. In line with this strategy, we have developed an athlete centre that came into operation in October 2019.
We created a special employment scheme in Government Linked Companies for athletes as well as increased support of former athletes through The National Athletes Welfare Foundation and corporate support from entities like FWD Takaful Malaysia and Malaysia Airlines.
In addition, e-sports was officially recognized, in line with our goals of promoting globally recognized sports that Malaysians are competitive in. A 5-year strategic plan was furthermore developed to raise the sport’s profile and boost public confidence in the sport.
For inclusivity, we have launched Projek Tambah Emas to help advance Paralympics in Malaysia and planned to launch many more initiatives that will involve specific target groups, including a special focus on women in sports. Sports as a lifestyle is an ongoing effort from awareness programmes to my own active participation in sports - we take every opportunity to educate, involve and inspire the rakyat to make sports a way of life.
Finally, we are not able to create real impact unless the ministry improves public service delivery, stressing on the importance of good governance, efficiency and effectiveness as well as ‘Rakyat Responsiveness’. One of the first things that I worked on as a minister was to improve good governance and best practices in the Ministry.
Out of the 25 Ministries evaluated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), we were 8th in terms of high risk for embezzlement, corruption and abuse of power. Since 2019, we are at much lower levels of risk and have moved up to the 16th place (the higher the position the less risk). I think this in part has to do with our emphasis on transparency, for example, all of our officers including those in my office declare their assets.
We use a completely open tender system through the Government’s e-perolehan system and have developed a Corruption Risk Management Plan with the MACC. As we implement the plan, it will continuously be updated and refined to reduce risks in corruption and improve best practices.
Furthermore, we are also experimenting with forensic accounting to ensure that every single cent is effectively spent towards the development of youth and sports in Malaysia. In terms of Rakyat Responsiveness, our focus will be on developing more effective systems for input gathering from the public and creating innovative solutions for youth and sports related problems.
Though I have spoken at length about our larger plans for the ministry and mentioned some of the initiatives underway, what I hoped to achieve in this article was to give an idea about the things that we have done.
The writer is a former Minister of Youth and Sports