By INS Contributors

BUKIT MERTAJAM, Malaysia--The government must set up a continuity fund to save the ailing sports industry which has been among the hardest hit due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim Chee Keong said on Saturday.

The fund had been first proposed by Sim during the debate on the 2021 national budget to help businesses related to sports and recreation, with no less than 100 million ringgit being needed to shore up the industry, he said in a statement.

The youth and sports ministry had subsequently announced the sports industry financing scheme, with 20 million being allocated to the scheme for loans to those in the sports industry, through Tekun Nasional and Bank Rakyat.

However, Sim said many local industry operators had complained about the scheme, with some claiming it was not helpful to them due to its long approval process of 40 days as well as a very high interest rate.

A check with sports industry operators also found they were already burdened with debts while having no income during the lockdowns ordered by the government.

“Clearly, the scheme has failed to help the industry weather the economic challenges caused by COVID-19,” he said.

“As such, I urge the government to set up a 100 million ringgit continuity fund to save the sports industry in Malaysia.”

He suggested that the government improve the sports industry financing scheme to include an interest-free loan with a six-month moratorium, besides cutting down the approval time for loan processing.

“The 100 million ringgit is only about 10 percent of the ministry’s budget and it would not be excessive to use to rescue the industry at a time when many of the ministry’s programmes can’t be run this year,” Sim said.

Among his suggestions was for the government to provide a monthly subsidy of up to 50% for the monthly rent, or a maximum of 5,000 ringgit, to businesses in the sports industry that were ordered to close throughout the various lockdowns.

He said rental exemption should be extended to businesses that are renting government premises during the same period.

Sim said a grant of up to 10,000 ringgit should be provided to help the industry shift to the digital platform.

“A special one-off grant of 2,000 ringgit must also be given to help the sector, which has been severely affected since March last year.

“Besides that, a 1,000 ringgit monthly assistance should be given to individuals working on their own in the industry, told to shut down during the lockdowns.”

He added the government should consider providing an upskilling and reskilling allowance to people taking sports or coaching courses recognised by the youth and sports ministry.

He said the Malaysian sports industry involved some 15,000 workers and also provided business opportunities to local small and medium enterprises.

“In the last one year, this sector is among those most affected as they were the earliest to close down and among the last to reopen,” he said.