KUCHING: Social development must be given equal importance alongside economic and infrastructural development in the state, said Welfare, Community Well Being, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah.
She said as the state progresses into Industrial Revolution 4.0, social cohesion becomes even more significant and critical for the state to prosper economically and for development to be sustainable.
“We must now recognise that expenditures, costs and efforts incurred on social development planning, monitoring, implementation and evaluation, are indeed a social investment to the ministry and the state.
“While we strive to develop our state with physical development, we should also give equal emphasis on social planning and development to achieve a healthy socio-economic balance,” she continued.
Fatimah was speaking at the Sarawak Welfare Department Strategic Plans for 2019-2021 themed ‘Target Group or Client Development and Empowerment’ and the launching of the Welfare Helpline, which was attended by NGOs and government agencies at a hotel here yesterday.
She said one of the important aspects in economic development is balancing of social welfare with the state’s development objectives.
“However, I wish to highlight a number of issues within our social services system when dealing with those people with the most complex needs.
“The obvious ones are departments often do not have good information about at-risk people, their individual circumstances, and their underlying problems.
“Departments know too little about what services are effective at improving outcomes, although considerable effort goes into coordination across departments. Acting in silo is still a major problem.
“Lastly, government systems and accountabilities can be hard for service delivery providers to deal with at times,” she said.
She added for social investment to materialise in Sarawak, a paradigm shift is required.
“Our data capability must be world class. That is why the state government is embarking on the digital economy infrastructure and info-structure. We also need support from academics, non-governmental organisations, the private sector and communities alongside officials to deliver.
“We must, however, learn to listen to those we are trying to help, and those who work most closely with them and last, but not least, the ministry must develop a range of tools, products and advice to enable agencies to develop their social investment approaches; analyse and measure the impact and effectiveness of the services they are delivering,” she said.
Fatimah elaborated further that each vulnerable family and individual in Sarawak matters to the state government.
“Thus, it is our job to help them make positive and sustainable changes that will make a difference to their lives.
“The more complex the need, the more important it is that decisions on specific interventions be made locally by our community themselves,” she said.
Therefore, she said there is a need to continue to develop social capital in Sarawak through strategic partnerships involving the public, private or civil institutions with social development-related interest, and engaging communities so that they could build up their capacity in terms of relevant knowledge, skills and processes for social capital benefits such as trust, belonging and information flows required for societal wellbeing.
“When a community has a strong social capital, it will be easier for our community to cultivate, contend and resolve social ills such as drugs and substance abuse, corruption, crime, environment conservation, youth pregnancy, domestic violence, child abandonment, child abuse, various kinds of sexual crimes on children and women, accidents, mental health and others.
“In delivering our services, let us together apply the truly rakyat-centred approach,” she said.
Among those present at the event were Assistant Minister of Women, Family and Childhood Development Rosey Yunus, Community Wellbeing Assistant Minister Datuk Francis Harden Hollis, the ministry’s permanent secretary Dr Saadiah Abdul Samat, Women and Family Department director Noriah Ahmad and Welfare Department acting director Joni Naruddin.