The government will support bottom-up youth initiatives but doing too much may end up being counter-productive, said Senior Minister of State Lawrence Wong.
Speaking to 60 youths during a forum at The Colonial @ Scotts on Thursday evening, Wong said the government is looking at empowering youths to find their own solutions, especially as the country strives forward to build and debate a more inclusive, caring society as part of the Singapore Conversation.
“We, from the ministry itself – from the government’s point of view – would like to facilitate, would like to encourage, motivate. What we can do is perhaps connect the groups together, help them find synergies among themselves, provide resources – these are things we can do for them,” said Wong, who is also the chairman of the National Youth Council.
Wong cited the example of how National Youth Council building was transformed into a Hub Singapore café, which now serves as a platform for social entrepreneurs to gather.
The minister called this building an “eco-system”.
Singapore: Government vs government?
During the robust sharing session between youth leaders aged 19 to 35, a participant agreed that the government is indeed doing too much.
Faris Abdulkadir Basharahil, 25, chief executive of a non-profit social enterprise business, said that in April, the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts (MICA) doled out $210 million for the arts and community development.
However, the money mainly went to five government bodies, adding that Singapore’s No.1 competitor is its own government, which competes for its own resources.
Wong agreed with Basharahil, and proceeded to ask what the youths want Singapore to be in the future?
To that, a youth leader from the Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA) answered: For Singapore to be a home.
Cumarran S/O Kaliyaperumal, 26, emphasized the importance of values such as respect, dignity and volunteerism as the “bedrock and foundation every Singaporean goes through”.
Expanding on the point of dignity, Wong acknowledged that Singapore must widen the definition of “merit” to include “excellence doing whatever we are passionate about”, instead of just purely academic or material success.
“How can we shape a mindset where we embrace different paths of success and recognize that it’s not just about academic excellence, it’s not even about pay, but it’s about each individual taking pride in his or her job and excelling and doing that job well?” he asked.