BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Empowering youth and welfare recipients are among the top agenda for the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) this year, tabling a $93 million budget — a 22.8 percent increase from last year.

“The ministry will continue to increase the involvement and empowerment of the community… in the development and well-being of the country; preserve and uphold cultural arts and advance the sports sector,” the MCYS minister said during the Legislative Council meeting on Thursday.

According to YB Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Hj Abidin, $14 million has been earmarked for monthly welfare assistance.

In order to make welfare application more efficient, MCYS has also allocated an undisclosed amount to the development of a centralised database for welfare assistance programmes.

However, the minister stressed that MCYS is committed to empowering welfare recipients and have lined up several initiatives to ensure that they can break out of the poverty cycle. This includes programmes to equip recipients with skills to make them more marketable.

A total of $30,000 has been allocated to the ministry’s new programme, dubbed Bantuan Keupayaan, which will be used as  grant or seed money for SMEs by welfare recipients. Another $100,000 will be channelled to improve grant mechanisms to graduates of the Program Belia Berdikari (Youth-Self Reliant Programme).

Since its inception in 2014, 41 out of 66 participants of the Program Belia Berdikari who have been provided with grants are still active in business.

“[The ministry] will also be expanding short courses to single mothers, low-income individuals, unemployed youths and MPK members on request,” said YB Dato Hj Aminuddin adding that these courses are hoped to lead to entrepreneurship.

“Our goal is to raise the employment rates of Youth Development Centre (PPB) graduates from 40 per cent to 70 per cent through collaboration with capacity building centres and private companies.”

The ministry will also look into innovative approaches to the research and review of policies affecting the elderly, special needs individuals and monthly welfare assistance. recipients.

Touching on the youth, YB Dato Hj Aminuddin announced a Youth and Sport Net (YS net) system slated to take place in October this year. The system is a digital database for youth and sports associations to share activities including volunteering opportunities.

A Youth Hub, which will be established at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium, is also in the pipelines. “This hub will improve social development as well as create an conducive environment to various networks besides sports excellence. Phase 2 of this upgrade is targeted to complete in 2021,” the MCYS minister said.

Additional funds has also been allocated to enhance the involvement and accountability of non-government organisations: $150,000 for youth development, $200,000 for sports development and $150,000 for non-profit organisations.