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Dear Minister, Have the Arts been Forgotten?

With the urge from the Minister, YB Dato’ Sri Hajah Nancy Shukri, Tarinao took a peek into the websites of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Arts (MoTAC) and its various departments, units, and agencies. The formation of MoTAC is quite a straightforward one—out of the need to act swiftly in response to optimising the management and promotion of the tourism industry that has a direct impact on the economic growth of Malaysia. A study[1] in 2018 showed that in the past 20 years, every 1% increase in tourist expenditure or spending contributes to a 0.2% increase in real GDP. In 2019 alone, total tourist receipt[2] at RM 86.1 billion, or 2.4% increase from the previous year, contributed to 0.48% of the overall GDP valued at of RM 1.42 trillion[3] or, RM 681.6 billion. In short, tourism industry showed a significant observable impact on the economy.

In short, tourism industry showed a significant observable impact on the economy.

Figuratively speaking, it made complete sense that the MoTAC should focus on tourism over the arts and culture sector. Well, figuratively speaking. However, if we were to look more closely into what drives tourism, what exactly attracts the attention and curiosity of the people? Enough to make the decision to make the trip of a lifetime to a country? It has to be more complex than just numbers. We are talking, after all, about people, flesh and blood, thinking human beings that are so complex and ever-changing that was described as the microcosm of life. The complexity of human and its behaviour is so intense that, one small change within one’s environment can make a big transformation overnight. Take a look around us now, all our lives without discrimination have been practically changed overnight by one tiny non-life virus named COVID-19.

The point is, one small factor, can indirectly affect the direct consequences of the world system that we know; one seemingly small sector of the arts can indirectly affect the direct consequences of the tourism industry that are the most directly hit industry during this difficult period. The arts give birth to culture, give birth to tradition, give birth to our sense of identity, sense of belonging, and sense of self that dictate much of our decision making, if not all. The heart of tourism is the culture of the people; the heart of culture is the arts that are born out of the expression of life packed with emotions and nostalgia of the people and the time. The heart of tourism is the arts. In this article, we are looking into the heart of MoTAC, the departments and agencies of arts and culture.


This is the department in charge of the competition that the minister shared enthusiastically on the interview with Astro Awani’s Consider This as a way to support the arts sector. The online art competition opened for participation on 14-22 April, has been extended until 30 April: