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Syerleena: RM25m not enough to rebuild devastated arts industry

March 2, 2023

Written by Yasmin Ramlan and Aisya Sufian and published on the 2nd of March, 2023 for Malaysiakini.

PARLIAMENT | Budget 2023’s allocations for the arts and culture industry were not enough for the devastation it suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic, Dewan Rakyat was told.

Syerleena Abdul Rashid (Pakatan Harapan-Bukit Bendera) claimed that in 2021, 90 percent of art practitioners in the country were negatively affected and 77 percent of them lost more if not all of their income.

She added that 75 percent of jobs were reduced in the market and eight percent of art venues have closed permanently.

During the Budget 2023 debate in the Dewan Rakyat today, Syerleena (above) cited that RM102 million was allocated towards digital content grants aimed to assist and promote new works in the creative industries.

However, she lamented that there was a disparity in allocation distribution.

“RM25 million (was allocated) for arts and cultural activities at the community level, and RM20 million for arts and cultural programmes in schools that encourage unity.

“So, the question is, what will be the effect if this allocation of RM25 million is shared throughout the entire country?” she asked.

To achieve sustainability and prosperity in the creative-cultural industry, the MP said cash handouts were not enough, but artists and industry players must instead be empowered through innovative programmes.

Syerleena stated that a national creative industry policy and a council solely for the arts and music should be created to safeguard the welfare of the artists.

Additionally, she said the government must streamline the local licensing system and legal framework for the arts industry as not only will this help local artists, but it will also reduce undue stress inflicted upon them.

“They (artists) are our cultural ambassadors that tourists in Malaysia see, and they are the ones who often end up in the photos and videos that find their way onto social media all around the world.

“We must do more to empower them,” Syerleena stressed.

Symbiotic relationship

Syerleena emphasised that the arts and culture sector in Malaysia largely contributes to the country’s economy, especially towards the tourism industry.

She said there is a symbiotic relationship between tourism, arts, and culture and that the government needed to recognise this as an asset to improve the economy.

“By showcasing the country's cultural heritage, Malaysia can attract visitors from around the world to learn about our history, customs, and traditions.

“This, in turn, can help boost the country's economy and create new job opportunities. It is also important to have a national digital repository of our cultural assets,” the MP said.

Furthermore, Syerleena suggested that the country can become a hub for music through the existence of a music tourism sector.

She said when international celebrities come to Malaysia, they will also attract their fans to visit.

“This would help our hotels and homestays as well as restaurants, fuelling our local economy.

“This goes the same with our local entertainers - wherever they go, their fans will follow,” she concluded.


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