KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 29 — The youth should take a cue from great Asian leaders, including Malaysia’s Tunku Abdul Rahman, in embracing service and leadership at a young age, whether in the private or public sector, caretaker Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Aziz said today.
“For me, having had the opportunity to roll up my sleeves and fight in the trenches for Malaysia during the COVID war, has truly been a self-defining moment and worthwhile calling.
“As I have said before, you are the future of Malaysia. We will not prosper, nor will we survive, if our young remain passive and disengaged. I understand the recent years may have been frustrating and dispiriting, but that is the challenge that history throws our way.
“Adversity should be a call for hope and courage, rather than despair, he told the Youth Economic Forum 2022, themed “Charting a positive course for nation building with agility, resilience and impact.”
“Let us not forget that the great Asian leaders of our time, including people like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Sukarno of Indonesia, Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, and even our Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Abdul Razak of Malaysia, all started their activism young, and not necessarily in politics,” he said.
But when their nation called, they answered, and they willingly stepped up and served.
Youth despondency and apathy are anathemas to a nation’s continued progress, he added.
“All of you sitting here have the power to change the fate of your community, your society, your country, and even the world. But you must come forward and come forward with determination and the desire to remain invested in this country’s progress,” he continued.
Among others, Tengku Zafrul also shared the country’s economic progress at the forum, pointing out that it is not all doom and gloom amid the global headwinds and challenges.
There are still many bright spots, he said, adding that Malaysia has enjoyed three consecutive quarters of economic growth since Q4 2021, and in the second quarter of this year the country grew by 8.9 per cent.
The unemployment rate in August 2022 was at 3.7 per cent, back to pre-pandemic levels, while the number of unemployed recorded a consistent month-to-month drop, which is good news for job seekers.
The World Bank has now revised upward its 2022 growth forecast for Malaysia to 6.4 per cent compared to 5.5 per cent previously, while the International Monetary Finance’s revised projection was at 5.4 per cent, up from 5.1 per cent previously, he said.
The government has also revised upward the 2022 growth forecast from 6.5 per cent to 7 per cent in the recently tabled Budget 2023, said Tengku Zafrul. “The government remains committed to addressing our employment needs.”
Budget 2022 allocated RM4.8 billion through JaminKerja for job creation, reskilling and upskilling.
The Ministry of Finance (MOF) has also sought to create meaningful work with meaningful pay to support the rising cost of living. In April 2022, the government gazetted the increase in the minimum wage to RM1500 to improve the standard of living.
In Budget 2023 for the youth, which represented over 28 per cent of the population, the government has proposed various measures, including an allocation of RM305 million in loans specially carved out for youth entrepreneurs as well as the extension of Skim Tekun Belia Mobilepreneur, which will continue to assist youths in the last-mile delivery sector with an allocation of RM10 million.
The ePemula initiative has been continued with an allocation of RM400 million for youths between 18–20 years old and full-time students.
“Others include a discount of up to 20 per cent for the National Higher Education Fund Corporation’s (PTPTN) loan repayment and many more benefits, such as for the purchase of property for female entrepreneurs, women returning to the workforce, and many others,” he added.