The dust has settled around the shock victory of Pakatan Harapan, and just last week, the remaining Cabinet ministers were sworn in.
The new Pakatan Harapan-led government is widely expected to be a force of change, and one of the faces of that change is the youngest female minister of the Cabinet, Yeo Bee Yin, who holds the portfolio for the Ministry of Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment.
Last week, at the launch of French Tech Malaysia (an initiative that promotes French innovation and entrepreneurship worldwide), we had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with the newly minted minister, who shared some of her plans on what to expect for her ministry, and for certain government initiatives.
“A Lot To Do”
She began, “I think there’s a lot for us to do at the moment. A lot of the things that the government has been doing has been very fragmented. Now what we’re trying to do is to coordinate everything to really come together and see who is doing what, which ministry is doing what, and on the funding as well.”
One thing that she did mention a few times was the lack of combined efforts in the past.
“We’re now seeing that the government funding is channeled through different agencies, and there’s no synergy that comes with it.”
The plan to tackle that?
“What we’re going to do is put everything—not under one roof—but under one roadmap where we know what we’re heading to and which technology and science [to work on]. What we are really looking into at the technology of the future and how do we prepare ourselves towards it.”
“Each Ministry Cannot Work In A Silo”
Bee Yin highlighted how important it is for ministries to tackle goals together. For instance, if working towards growing future technology, it shouldn’t just be the Ministry of Science and Technology’s responsibility; the Ministry of Education has a part to play as well.
“We’re going to communicate a lot more, and each ministry cannot work in a silo. What we are really looking into is how science and technology is going to impact that. I tell my ministry people, we are really going to be the science and technology guidance for our government.”
“Say MIMOS has a product, or our remote sensing agency has certain things that can help our Health Ministry… we are going to look into the technology and see first, how can it help us govern better.”
“Second is how do we actually, say [science and technology] involves a lot of equipment, laboratories. We’re looking into how can we take an inventory of nationwide equipment, scientific equipment that we can actually share, and the labs that we can use (e.g. the government labs and the private labs) so we can have a synergy not about networking, it’s a real physical benefits that can come out of it.
“We Really Need Some Time”
For businesses and entrepreneurs, Bee Yin also had a proposal for them to look forward to.
“So MOSTI (Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation) has a lot of assets; cybersecurity is also under the Ministry of Science and Technology, so these are the one we are taking inventories on, on what we can provide and share with the public, including entrepreneurs, so they don’t need to spend money buying equipment, they can actually get it from the government (for free or a small fee).”
However, people expecting immediate changes will probably be disappointed, for now.
“From now until about a month later, we are focusing on restructuring the ministry (because it’s 3 ministries into 2, where my ministry is taking a big part of it). The whole idea of having this sort of [ministry structure] is how do we create synergy. Let’s say for example, meteorology used to be in Science and Technology, but it actually has a lot of impact on climate change.”
“So what we are going to do is have a restructuring process where we optimise our resources in the government first. That’s on the ministry level.”
An example would be a service her ministry provides, like SIRIM. For now, she will be looking at reforming it and examining its offerings.
“Then there’s the inter-ministerial level. That’s how we as a ministry help other ministries to govern better—to add value to the government. Then it goes down the the public level.”
She did ask for some room and time to be able to work on these changes.
“So give us some time, we really need some time because we are new. I foresee we’ll need another two weeks because of restructuring, who is going where.”
When it comes to her own ministry and manpower, she had some clear ideas on how to move forward too.
“In two weeks time, we will also decide on how we’ll group the people. We are moving forward in a direction where, in the ministry, there will be more people in the core business than in administration. We want to run a lean ministry where there are very few people in administration [and spend less on this] and more on the core business—what we do, and on the policy level too.”
“We really need to build up capacity in the ministry and the government itself.”
It’s certainly interesting living in a time of change, with a large group of ministers who essentially never have held such roles before.
The new incumbents are enthusiastic and have big plans for the future, but change does not always come easily. We are looking forward to seeing what strides this newly minted minister and newly combined ministry take, and hopefully, lead in a new era for technology and innovation in Malaysia.
- You can read more about our previous coverage of Pakatan Harapan here.