Arts and culture need more assistance

pic by TMR FILE

THE government’s proposed increase in its allocation for the arts and culture field to RM15 million as stipulated in the recent Budget 2021 presentation might be a healthy increase from previous year’s number, but art practitioners are of the opinion that more is needed to reboot and spur the sector’s growth.

Producer, director and actor Datuk Hans Isaac (picture) said the allocation is not as impactful for the industry.

Isaac, the former National Film Development Corp chairman, said more can be done — in terms of incentives and stimulus apart from just monetary assistance.

He cited the Selangor state government’s recent effort to lower the entertainment tax rate by 10% for ticketed performances and cinemas as a good way to ensure the industry’s survival.

Sharing Isaac’s stance is Damansara Performing Arts Centre’s theatre manager Tan Eng Heng who said the amount is not enough, despite the increase.

Tan said the industry players now do not have that much option in terms of grants and incentives as the total amount is channelled via one outlet, namely the Cultural Arts Economic Development Agency (Cendana).

Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD) CEO Dr Yatela Zainal Abidin said more funds should be allocated for all programmes that would spur the art sector further.

“I think there’s a quite a lot of other sections of the budget, where the artist can actually get assistance from the government and from the budget as well.

“From the Covid-19 relief parts, and from the Penjana Kerjaya sector, parts of the budget, they may be able to actually hop on to those parts,” Yatela told The Malaysian Reserve.

Still, she said the increase in the allocation shows that the government is actually paying a little bit more attention to the arts and culture sector.

In his maiden Budget presentation last Friday, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz announced that the total RM15 million, a RM10 million increase from the previous year’s allocation, will be channelled through Cendana.

The amount is expected to be utilised for the implementation of various arts and culture programmes that would benefit more than 5,000 artists and the production crew.

“The government is cognisant of the plight of the artists including the production crew who are also impacted by this Covid-19 pandemic,” he said during the Budget 2021 announcement.

Cendana founding CEO Izan Satrina Mohd Sallehudin said 93% of the local cultural and arts workers had been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and 70% of them have lost most or all of their income.

“The allocation of RM15 million allows Cendana to move forward with confidence, providing continued and critical support to artists in performing arts, visual arts, independent music and craft sectors (following the efforts under MyCreative Ventures’s Penjana Plan for the Creative Industries),” Izan Satrina said in a press statement.

She added that the amount would enable artists, cultural workers, collectives, organisations who work in the studio, on stage or in the street, to sustain their operations and create work of excellence.

The financial aid is also expected to allow people across the country to have access to high quality arts experiences.

“This is an encouraging announcement for the arts and culture and demonstrates a positive understanding by the government on the important role of the arts and culture in all our lives and in the life of the nation, despite this unprecedented crisis,” Izan Satrina said.

She also said the allocation is a further endorsement of the ambitions laid out in the Shared Prosperity 2030 and also affirms the government’s commitment to place the arts and culture sector at the centre of government policy.

If the allocation isn’t enough to kickstart art and culture programmes, this is where corporates like YSD would step in and complement the government funding to assist the sector.

“So, as we have been doing this for more than 10 years now, we are filling the gaps, where the government is unable to assist and where the need is critical. We will come in to assist in those areas. We continue to complement government funding,” she said.

Meanwhile, Yatela said it is also time for more corporate funders to join Sime Darby in assisting and investing in the arts and culture sector.

“We hope other corporate funders can join us in assisting the sector once they see the impact and the outcomes of the projects that we’ve supported.

“We feel that what’s out there is not enough to assist them. So, we’d continue to do the work in the three focus areas which are arts education and empowerment, arts demand development and arts and culture encouragement,” Yatela said.