Syed Saddiq, Malaysia’s youngest minister, sees younger leaders in GLCs, agencies

Syed Saddiq made history on July 2, 2018 when he became the country’s youngest minister to ever be appointed. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Syed Saddiq made history on July 2, 2018 when he became the country’s youngest minister to ever be appointed. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, April 23 — Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman believes that his biggest achievement since his appointment as youth and sports minister is bringing more youth to leadership positions.

The 26-year-old, who made history on July 2, 2018 when he became the country’s youngest minister to ever be appointed, said he aimed to ensure that young Malaysians today feel they have a bigger part to play in deciding their country’s future.

“I feel the main thing I’d say I have achieved so far is ensuring a lot more young people are in leadership positions,” the Muar MP told Malay Mail in a special interview in conjunction with Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) first year in power.

“Not just in KBS (Youth and Sports Ministry) but in other agencies, the corporate sector and GLCs (government-linked company) we are appointing more and more young people as board members thanks to an agreement with the prime minister that came after long negotiations.”

Syed Saddiq has also initiated several programmes in line with his aspirations for the youth, one of which is the Malaysian Future Leaders School (MFLS) based on the Japanese Future Leaders School module.

Under MFLS, which replaces Biro Tata Negara (BTN) and the National Service Training Programme (PLKN), the government will select 200 students age 15 to 17 to train as future leaders.

“The MFLS will impact more than half a million Malaysians and that’s not including the ‘Fellow Korporat’ programme,” said Syed Saddiq, referring to a corporate fellowship programme that he also mooted.

“That’s where we get 20 of the top corporate executives, chairmen and chief executive officers (CEOs) in Malaysia to take 40 young aspiring CEOs and collaborate with them.”

Syed Saddiq has allocated RM70 million to implement MFLS through open tender.

He, however, said an area where his ministry could further improve is integrity.

He pointed out that when the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) released its 2016 Public Service Corruption Ranking, the Youth and Sports Ministry came in at number eight out of 25 ministries for most corrupt practices.

A briefing with MACC officers then alerted him to a serious lack of integrity and high perception of corruption within his ministry.

Deciding to ‘clean house’, Syed Saddiq said he implemented a plan to ensure his ministry is ranked among the top 10 for good governance.

“As soon as I came in, I implemented a plan beginning with me and all my staff declaring all our assets,” he said.

“Next we had a full audit done and are correcting a lot of things.

“Now we also have an MACC officer placed in KBS. Even I don’t know who this guy is so we have to always be vigilant and not be corrupt.”

When asked if there was anything that he felt could be improved on, Syed Saddiq said he would like to meet PH’s long-term objectives including better housing, tackling the student loan issue and creating one million jobs for Malaysians.

“I feel that even though it’s not under my ministry’s purview, as youth minister, I’m still tasked to work with other ministries like finance, housing and economy to deliver on those core issues.

“In fact, I’m working with YB Zuraida (Kamaruddin), who’s doing an incredible job, on housing issues while working closely with YB Maszlee Malik (education minister) and PTPTN (National Higher Education Fund Corporation) chairman Wan Saiful Wan Jan on education and job opportunities for youth,” he said.

Asked how he would rate himself on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the best, Syed Saddiq said: “I think it’s better for people to rate my performance. It doesn’t feel right for me to rate myself.

“However, I think I can do a lot better and I have a lot more to learn.”

So which minister does he think deserves a 10?

“All of them!” he said with a laugh.

“I respect them equally and as a Cabinet colleague, I have to work with all the ministers. And if there is a problem, it’s a collective responsibility for all of us to address it together.”