Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat at the Singapore Youth Award 2019 Presentation Ceremony on 3 November 2019.
Dr Sudha Nair,
Chairperson of the Singapore Youth Award Panel,
Members of the Singapore Youth Award Panel
Ladies and Gentlemen
Minister Grace Fu, SMS Sim Ann, SPS Baey Yam Keng and I are very happy to be here today at the Singapore Youth Award ceremony to celebrate the outstanding achievements of our young leaders.
We also heard the wonderful performances by the TENG Ensemble and the ITE Show Choir, which showcased the youthful creativity and energy of our young people.
Challenges and Opportunities for Youth Today
If we look back in history, how each generation develops is shaped by the era we were born into, where we were born, and what each of us made of our circumstances.
Every place, at each moment, presents a different set of challenges and opportunities.
For instance, youths all over the world today are facing the prospects of global warming and climate change.
Globalisation and technological advancements are disrupting jobs and industries that were once assumed “safe” and “stable”.
In many parts of the world, youth unemployment is high and rising. Economic opportunities are unevenly distributed, and many feel deprived of opportunities for a better life.
Our youths in Singapore are, fortunately, in a better position. You are better educated and enjoy better standards of living than your parents’ generation. I am also glad to see many parents and grandparents here today.
A report released recently by the Ministry of Finance showed that of those born in the 1940s – part of our Pioneer Generation – only 22% had a post-secondary education.
Today, more than 95% of each cohort of students progress to post-secondary education.
Our younger generations are also better able to find jobs, earn more, save more, and live longer and healthier compared to the generations before them.
You also live in a fast-growing, dynamic region with many opportunities.
By 2030, Southeast Asia is projected to be the world’s fourth biggest economy after China, the United States, and the European Union.
The middle class in this region is expanding rapidly, forming a large consumer market of hundreds of millions of people.
I hope our young people will actively venture into the region and do a variety of things.
For example, through the Global Ready Talent Programme, which funds student exchanges and internships in the region;
The Global Innovation Alliance which links our students and entrepreneurs with those in key innovation centres to collaborate with one another; and
The Singapore International Foundation (SIF) that brings young people to work in the region, to do community services in the region, and to have regional exchanges.
One interesting aspect of young people is you are also tech natives of the internet age. Cyberspace is your natural habitat.
And I speak from personal experience. I have had a Facebook account for some years.
I recently launched an Instagram account as I found out that many young people are not as active on Facebook because their parents have gone on to Facebook!
But when I moved to Instagram, I realised that young people are now moving on to SnapChat and TikTok, and I am sure there will be other new social media platforms soon.
Because technology is intuitive to you, you are in a very good position to reap the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, by using technology to create a bigger impact, and to make changes in the world.
Qualities and Values of Our Youth
Being tech-savvy, better educated, and living in the heart of Asia puts you in very good stead. But above all, I am confident in Singapore’s future because our young people have the right values and drive. You have heard from all seven recipients what they have done, and I think today, above all, they showed the right values and drive to learn and explore, to excel and achieve, and to care and serve – whether it is for people, for the environment, or for life on Earth.
The videos that we just watched highlights these remarkable achievements:
Alecia Neo, who founded an inclusive art platform, shared about arts being important in our lives;
Mental health advocate Cho Ming Xiu, who talked about the importance of mental health;
Educator Francesca Wah, who serves underprivileged families;
World-renowned conductor Wong Kah Chun - I have heard his concerts several times now, he is very promising;
Marine biologist Dr Neo Mei Lin, also known as the ‘giant clam girl’;
Sujatha Selvakumar, who helps vulnerable families access justice; and
Pencak silat world champion Sheik Farhan Bin Sheik Alau’ddin
Some of you may know that Farhan’s father, Sheik Alau’ddin, was also a pencak silat world champion and Singapore Youth Award recipient in 1997.
This is the first time that we have a father and son duo in the Awards alumni.
My heartiest congratulations to all seven recipients!
Taking Action to Build Our Future Singapore Together
I am heartened that many youths seek to make an impact in their fields of endeavour and in the community.
As part of the Singapore Together movement, we want to tap on the ideas, energies and passions of our young people.
This is why we launched the SG Youth Action Plan. As part of this Plan, MCCY and the National Youth Council have engaged over 40,000 youths since May this year, to build a vision of what our youths want Singapore to be in 2025.
Collectively, our youths identified five shared values that they feel should define Singapore in the future:
Inclusiveness - to build a society that actively supports those facing challenges;
Fairness - where everyone has opportunities to succeed, including the disadvantaged and vulnerable groups;
Care - to look out for one another, and maintain a strong community spirit;
Sustainability - with a stronger emphasis on the environment, and addressing climate change; and
Finally, progress. Our youths seek to build a Singapore that continues to advance, where everyone can pursue their dreams even if they choose to take different pathways.
I am encouraged by our young people’s vision for our future Singapore. They not only aspire to build a better Singapore, they are also ready to take action to make a difference.
I commend the strong culture of volunteerism among our youths – a recent NVPC survey shows that the ratio of youth volunteers has risen from 1 in 5 in 2014 to 1 in 3 last year!
The success of Youth Corps Singapore shows how each of you can make a difference – whether it is to one person, a group, or a cause.
I am happy to see that Youth Corps has grown to 20,000 members since it was set up in 2014. Together, they have contributed 1.2 million service hours, and touched the lives of 30,500 Singaporeans.
The Government will support youths as they put the values they have identified into action, as part of the SG Youth Action Plan.
For example, it is good that young people are concerned about climate change and sustainability, which will have a big impact on their lives.
We recently set up a Youth Circle, where youth leaders are working with MEWR on policy recommendations, such as on reducing food waste.
The SG Youth Action Plan also enables youths to work with industry experts to initiate ground-up projects to deal with environmental sustainability.
I encourage everyone to take part in the SG Youth Action Plan.
We have also partnered young people to transform the Somerset Belt – a short walk from here – into an inclusive space that youths can call their own.
Since June this year, youths have been sharing their ideas and co-creating prototypes, through online and offline engagement sessions.
These ideas have culminated in a draft Somerset Belt Masterplan, which will be available for public feedback.
Over the next two weeks, you can give your views on the draft Masterplan online, or at various pop-up booths across Singapore.
I look forward to hearing from many of you at our dialogue.
Your views and ideas of how our youths, as well as various communities in Singapore, and the world, can work better together.
I will also be engaging our youths for our upcoming Budget, to tap on your ideas and to identify new opportunities to work together.
Let me once again congratulate our Singapore Youth Award winners and all the finalists. Your journey here inspires youths and people of all ages in Singapore, as well as around the world. I look forward to you continuing to lead change and make waves.
This is important because you are Singapore’s future. I encourage you to make full use of your youthful energy, to live, love, and dream together; and to serve society, to make lives better for your loved ones, and for people all around us.
Everyone of you spoke earlier about the many people in your lives – your family members, from parents, grandparents, to spouses, to kids, and to all the volunteers in the various groups who are part of your journey. Indeed, it takes many hands to do great things. I encourage all young people to be the pioneers of your age. Step forward to build our future Singapore Together – one which you can be proud of, one which future generations can continue to build on!
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