RM100 million urgently needed to save the M’sian sports industry

The Malaysian sports industry provides 15,000 jobs and many business opportunities for local SMEs. But it is one of the worst hit sectors – usually one of the first to be closed in a shutdown and one of the last to be allowed to reopen. Unlike other sectors, many of the businesses in the sports industry cannot change their business process to a”home delivery” model, and hence a shutdown means zero income to them.

A coalition of gym and fitness facility operators estimated that they have lost RM110 million in the past one year since MCO 1.0 began.

After my proposal at the 2021 Budget session, the government set up a Sports Industry Financing Scheme with RM20 million allocation. 6 months later, industry players are complaining that the scheme does not help because of the interest rate, slow approval process (upto 42 days) and they are already burdened with debts due to the frequent shutdown.

Thus, I propose a RM100 million Sports Industry Continuity Fund with the following measures:

1) 50% monthly rental subsidy or maximum of RM5,000 in the duration of government-ordered shutdown. Those operating in government-owned premises should be given rental exemption.

2) RM10,000 Digitalisation Grant to assist sports businesses to adopt Industry 4.0 tech to deal with the new normal.

3) One-off RM2,000 Geran Khas Prihatin Untuk Industri Sukan to help cushion losses accumulated throughout the past one year.

4) Monthly aid of RM 1,000 for self-employed individuals in the sports industry (coaches, instructors, therapists etc) who were affected by the government-ordered shutdown.

5) Reskilling and upskilling allowance of RM1,000 for individuals in the sports industry pursuing sports and coaching certifications approved by the Youth and Sports Ministry.

RM100 million is about 10% of the annual budget of the Youth and Sports Ministry, and it is not too much to ask for such fund to be set aside at a time when many Ministry programmes/projects cannot be implemented.

The Sports Industry Financing Scheme should also be converted into an interest-free easy payment loan with a 6-month automatic moratorium.

As in my Budget 2021 proposal, the government should also introduce tax incentives for corporations which provide gym or other sports membership/facilities to their employees, organise sports events (either physically or virtually) and make sports sponsorships.

Finally, the government must make shutdown decisions based on data and science, and by the arbitrary categorisation of “essential” and “non-essential”. Risk assessment should be conducted on business premises and if the operators can prove they are able to minimize the risk of on-site infection, they should not be unfairly ordered to shutdown. For those which failed the risk assessment, they cannot be allowed to operate, even if they are in the so-called “essential” sector.

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