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Sunday August 22, 2010

A man to watch

Gan Ping Sieu is an eligible bachelor who is also now on the right track of his political career.

LAWYER-turned-politician Senator Gan Ping Sieu (pic) often stands out in the crowd and it’s not just due to his towering height.

Dubbed the most eligible bachelor in the MCA, the 44-year-old Deputy Youth and Sports Minister is quite dapper-looking. He, however, is quick to evade the topic of marriage.

“I have other priorities,” he says during this interview as he flips through some notes in his file, signalling his wish to move on to more “serious matters”.

But many people tend to take for granted that Gan, who received his law degree from Queen Mary College, University of London, is married.

Sporty outlook: ‘The new approach should emphasise on the return of investment for the private sector in order to create a win-win situation,’ says Gan.

“We have received invitations for him and his wife, and it is kind of difficult to answer when organisers ask us to confirm Datin’s attendance,” quips an aide.

According to a party insider, Gan has many secret admirers but past efforts to matchmake him have yet to bear fruit.

Gan, whose political career appeared to be put on hold when he failed to retain the Mengkibol state seat (in Johor) in the last general election, sprang a surprise when he emerged as one of the four elected vice-presidents in the party election in March.

By virtue of the seniority of the post in the party, Gan was subsequently made a Senator and appointed a deputy minister in a mini Cabinet reshuffle in June.

His face lights up when asked about his new portfolio. An avid sportsman, Gan who swims, plays badminton, golf, basketball and tennis, has big dreams for sports as an industry.

“We are all out to commercialise sports,” he shares. “Sports is a lucrative industry and this is evident in many countries in the world.”

To drive home his point, he refers to tourism, pointing out that people did not expect it to become a major income earner two decades ago.

On his ministry’s roadmap to make sports a sunrise industry in the country, Gan says a Cabinet committee on sports was set up in February to oversee coordination among the ministries and agencies involved.

“We will hold a convention on sports before the end of the year. Next year is sports industry year,” he adds.

Gan stresses the importance of the private sector seeing sports as the next big business and not just a corporate social responsibility (CSR).

“The CSR approach, usually a one-off thing where companies donate a sum of money for sports events, should be a thing of the past.”

Gan says the new approach should emphasise on the return of investment (ROI) for the private sector in order to create a win-win situation.

To this end, he sees the ministry more as a coordinating agency, providing data and playing the role of a facilitator and networking.

The private sector, meanwhile, will take care of training, creating economic and job opportunities, and turning sports into a GDP contributor.

He also envisages a sports city in the Klang Valley – a one-stop-centre catering to both locals and foreigners.

On the country producing world class sportsmen and promoting sports in the long term, Gan says there must be a proper platform to allow youngsters to develop their career.

Vision aside, Gan anticipates some hurdles in realising the ambitious mission.

Malaysian parents, he notes, are still resistant towards the idea of their children making sports their career.

“They (parents) see sports mainly as a form of recreation although we are seeing more parents sending their children to sports academy for badminton or football,” he observes.

Another concern for Gan is how to organise programmes for youths, who comprise 41.5% of the population.

He admits it is an uphill task to engage this group (aged between 15 and 40 years), citing the outdated activities organised for the youths as one of the reasons.

“Some programmes have remained unchanged for the last five to 10 years.”

Citing examples, he says that a typical Youth Day (Hari Belia) celebration that comes with a speech from the VIP followed by some aerobic exercise is not only unattractive but also very boring.

“Such functions only attract around 30,000 to 40,000 youths although they are given free transport, food and T-shirts,” he says.

But that is a thing of the past.

This year, the celebration, which was held as a three-day expo on career opportunities, managed to attract 280,000 visitors.

Next year’s topic, he says, will be on IT (information technology) and career path. The ministry’s target is one million visitors.

For Gan, reaching out to the people via different organisations – private or public – is something he has been doing since completing his law studies in 1990.

He was a legal adviser for more than 100 associations, non-governmental organisations or societies from 1995 until his appointment as deputy minister.

Gan joined the MCA in 1994 and was appointed a Kluang Municipal councillor five years later.

He contested and won the Mengkibol state seat in 2004 but failed to retain it in the last election.

A winner of the Outstanding Young Malaysian Award in 2006 (politics, legal and government affairs), Gan says he loves reading serious stuff on politics and economics.

The tri-lingual Gan, who was the managing partner of a law firm from 1993, also holds a diploma (syariah) from the International Islamic University and a Master of Law from Universiti Malaya.

Gan may not be a high profile politician now, but he is certainly a man to watch.

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