• whatsapp

Nurturing a strong arts, heritage and sports ecosystem

Speech by Mr Baey Yam Keng, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth & Ministry of Transport at the Committee of Supply Debate 2020


  1. Mr Chairman, the arts, heritage and sports play an important role in making Singapore a vibrant and liveable city. They bring people together, inspire them and root us as Singaporeans.
  2. Earlier, Minister and SMS spoke about efforts to build a home that provides opportunities for all. This is exemplified through the celebration of different pathways to success for our artists and athletes, and the nurturing of a vibrant arts and culture ecosystem.

    Continued partnership with the arts community

  3. The partnership among the Government, arts patrons and arts community forms the basis of a sustainable arts scene. Mr Henry Kwek and Mr Terence Ho asked how MCCY will support the arts community during COVID-19. We want cultural performances to continue during this time as the arts inspire us and lift our spirits, as long as necessary precautions are in place. This is what MCCY agencies and institutions – including NAC, NHB and PA – will commit to, where possible. We also want to encourage arts and culture practitioners to take this opportunity to develop their capabilities and better position themselves for the future. MCCY will therefore set aside around $1.6 million to support the arts and culture sector, and to prepare the sector for the post-disease recovery.
  4. MCCY will provide a new 30% subsidy for venue rental and associated costs at our national cultural institutions including the Esplanade, Arts House Limited venues, and the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre.  This subsidy will be for arts and culture activities, including productions and workshops taking place from 7 March tomorrow to 30 June.
  5. In addition, NAC will provide a one-time, enhanced capability development grant for individuals and arts organisations, to promote upskilling and organisational capability development.  The grant will be open for application from 16 March, and will subsidise local courses and programmes.
  6. These two initiatives are part of the Support and Stabilisation Package announced by DPM in Budget 2020. Arts groups and practitioners, including those who enjoy subsidised rentals under NAC’s arts housing scheme, can benefit from both these initiatives. The Package also includes the new Self-Employed Persons (SEPs) training support scheme recently unveiled by Ministry of Manpower.  Under this, all SEPs will be paid an hourly $7.50 training allowance when attending eligible programmes. NAC will continue working with SkillsFuture Singapore on a curated list of arts and culture courses for arts freelancers. This will complement existing initiatives like the Arts Resource Hub which is working with partners to provide shared services in areas like legal and financial matters.
  7. We encourage all eligible arts and culture professionals to tap on the available measures, including subscribing to the Arts Resource Hub, which is free, and prepare themselves for the post-COVID-19 upturn. As Mr Ho suggested, we encourage arts practitioners to support one another during this time.
  8. SportSG is also engaging stakeholders, especially coaches and fitness instructors to use this time to retool and upskill through the various courses offered by CoachSG and partner institutions, supported by SkillsFuture Singapore and SkillsFuture Credits. Sports coaches registered with the National Registry of Coaches (NROC) can apply for financial assistance under the Coach Development Grant to attend courses and programmes to upgrade themselves. MOM’s Self-Employed Persons training support scheme will also benefit these sports freelancers.
  9. We will also ensure that our arts spaces are effectively used. Mr Yee Chia Hsing asked for an update on the Gillman Barracks Art Cluster. Gillman Barracks provides Singaporeans and tourists access to high quality arts programmes through educational art and history tours, performances, as well as talks and workshops by long-term tenant galleries. This includes the current edition of the Singapore Biennale, which had tours led by seniors, and concerts by students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic. Two successful editions of SEA Focus in 2019 and 2020 also enhanced Gillman Barracks’ standing as a locus of Southeast Asian Art.
  10. Mr Terence Ho asked if we will provide more shared spaces and resources to bring people together via arts activities. To facilitate networking and to optimise available spaces, arts practitioners will have access to our arts centres. In January, we opened two physical spaces under the Arts Resource Hub at Goodman Arts Centre and Stamford Arts Centre. Plans are underway to have a third physical hub at Waterloo Street by early 2021 that will offer incubation and presentation spaces for arts freelancers.
  11. These plans complement schemes like the Community and Sports Facilities Scheme to provide artists with greater access to spaces. I encourage more arts groups to consider how they can pool their resources. Those with existing facilities, for instance, could share them with others.
  12. Mr Chairman, technology will also be used to strengthen our arts ecosystem. NAC is collaborating with NLB to develop a National Online Repository of Singapore Arts to facilitate access to information on Singapore arts and deepen the expertise of arts researchers.
  13. This will complement other digital platforms, such as the Cultural Concierge and Offstage, which seek to widen the public’s engagement with the arts.

    Enabling our athletes and artists to perform at their best

  14. Sports also plays a crucial role in strengthening our community bonds.
  15. Er Lee Bee Wah asked about our plans for a sporting Singapore. As part of Vision 2030, SportSG is partnering stakeholders to develop a strong sporting culture and grow our standing as a major sporting hub through local and international events such as the Singapore Rugby 7s, FINA World Cup and the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon. The GDP contribution of the sports industry has grown steadily, reaching $1.7 billion in 2018. This figure excludes growth areas like sports broadcast, infrastructure projects, sports events and conferences, as well as esports, which SportSG, Enterprise Singapore, Singapore Tourism Board and local and international businesses have been working together to develop the esports scene.
  16. Mr Chairman, the Singapore Sports Hub hosted 212 events last year. The precinct has seen increased footfall, with regular activities such as quarterly Community Play Days and a variety of programmes. Like many Singaporeans, we want to see it succeed as the integrated sports and lifestyle destination that we envisioned. Regarding the acquisition of majority stakeholder InfraRed Capital Partners by Sun Life, we recently sought clarification from SportsHub Pte Ltd or SHPL and have obtained their assurance that this will not have any direct impact on the Sports Hub operations.
  17. We have made our views and expectations known and the SHPL  agrees that the Sports Hub should be a place that all Singaporeans can be proud of. SportSG is in regular communication with SHPL’s top management and closely monitors performance to ensure that agreed standards for availability of facilities and performance are met. For example, SHPL is required to meet a minimum number of sporting event days at the National Stadium and Singapore Indoor Stadium each year. Where they have not met the standards, they have been held accountable and financial penalties have been imposed. We will continue to monitor and hold SHPL accountable to meet all their contractual obligations to deliver a first-class sports, entertainment and lifestyle hub for all Singaporeans.
  18. Mr Darryl David asked how our athletes have fared internationally, how we are supporting our younger elite athletes; and athletes who are competing in locations with a high rate of COVID-19 infections. 2019 was a busy year for our athletes.  I attended the 30th Southeast Asian Games in the Philippines where we fielded 659 athletes, and achieved more than 50 gold medals.
  19. On the international stage, shuttler Loh Kean Yew beat two-time Olympics champion Lin Dan to win the Thailand Masters last year, and he defeated the world Number 2 shuttler at the Badminton Asia Team Championships in February. Bowler Cherie Tan made history by becoming the first Singaporean to be named the World Bowling Athlete of the Year by World Bowling last year.
  20. In para sports, swimmer Yip Pin Xiu clinched two medals at the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships, while archer Nur Syahidah Alim, became the first Singaporean to be named Para Women World Archery Athlete of the Year for 2019.
  21. Looking ahead, we now have more than 10 athletes across six sports who have qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics; and nine para-athletes who have qualified for the Paralympics.
  22. These athletes are supported through the spexScholarship programme or dedicated Campaign funding for the Games, as well as annual government funding through the National Sports Associations. Specialised Sport Science and Sport Medicine support is also provided to help them achieve their best.
  23. For our athletes going overseas, SportSG, together with the Singapore National Olympic Council and the Singapore National Paralympic Council have developed detailed contingency plans to ensure the safety of our athletes and officials. The contingency plans for Tokyo 2020 are being developed and will include measures and precautions for athletes and officials with regard to COVID-19.
  24. We will also enhance our sporting infrastructure to support our youth athletes. The National Youth Sports Institute satellite facility will move to a bigger facility at the former Police Coast Guard Headquarters next to the Kallang Basin in April. This will allow NYSI to scale up sport science support for more youth athletes. The new premises will be close to SSI and the Sports Hub where many athletes train, thus providing opportunities for interaction between the junior and senior athletes.
  25. Ms Yip Pin Xiu shared that she has seen many athletes face mental pressures from their sport and their daily lives. This also applies to retiring athletes.
  26. To ensure the mental wellbeing of athletes, the SSI Sports Psychology team has been equipping our athletes with skills to adjust to life post-competition, and a post-sport career. They offer counselling services and a mental health literacy programme, Mind Matters, that helps athletes and coaches identify and understand mental wellbeing issues as well as when and how to seek help. We note Ms Yip’s comment on the limited reach. SSI is working to expand the reach of this programme to benefit more athletes; as well as partners under the spexBusiness network to offer professional development support and opportunities to retiring athletes.
  27. Our athletes can also look out for one another. I encourage our retired athletes and veterans to take the lead to build circles of support, lend a listening ear, offer advice, and help one another.
  28. Mr Faisal Manap asked about our plans for the Singapore national football team qualifying for World Cup 2034. The Government does not interfere with the management of our national sports associations, including the Football Association of Singapore (FAS). We were briefed by the FAS on the plans for Goal 2034 and have givenFAS feedback. We look forward to hearing back from them on their plans and how we can best support them.
  29. Supporting our athletes and artists is a shared endeavour.  We have funds to encourage private and corporate philanthropy for the arts and sports, reinforcing the Singapore Together movement.  Mr Terence Ho and Ms Yip Pin Xiu asked about the Cultural Matching Fund (CMF) and One Team Singapore Fund (OTSF) respectively.
  30. Since it was set up in 2013, CMF has benefitted over 100 arts and heritage charities, through 1-for-1 matching to over $215 million of private donations.
  31. We recognise that smaller arts groups may need more help as they lack strong fundraising capabilities. We will help these groups with the new Sustain The ARTs Fund or stART Fund for short. This fund will bring together donations from corporations and individuals, which will be matched by CMF where eligible, to support small arts groups in developing robust governance structures and attaining Charity and eventually IPC status, as well as the programming. Over the coming three years till 2022, NAC plans to build the stART Fund to $10 million, which aims to support about 100 arts groups. All eligible donations will receive prevailing tax deductions. Interested donors can reach out to National Arts Council.
  32. In the sports arena, the OTSF complements the Government’s investment in the high performance sports system by allowing individuals and corporates to make cash donations. The Government has set aside $50 million to match cash donations to encourage more to step forward. We wish to clarify that similar to other Government matching funds, the OTSF does not provide matching for commercial arrangements like sponsorships, as the Fund aims to encourage philanthropy to sport.
  33. We are mindful that there are athletes outside the high performance sports system such as our indoor skydivers, national Dodgeball and Tchoukball squads who have done well internationally. We want to support their aspirations. So with support from Temasek Foundation, $100,000 will be set aside annually for a Temasek Foundation Inspire Fund for Athletes that will provide campaign funding for such athletes. More details will be announced in the coming months.

    Partnering the community to safeguard our heritage and to bring arts and culture to where we live and play

  34. Mr Chairman, I have spoken about how we are supporting our artists and athletes. Our efforts cannot stop here.
  35. We agree with Mr Lee Yi Shyan that arts and culture should be accessible to Singaporeans. Since 2012, we have established 21 arts and culture nodes across the island to provide quality arts programmes in our neighbourhoods. Through programmes such as PAssion Arts, Arts in Your Neighbourhood and Artseen, we have co-designed community arts programming with the community and other partners. We have also brought arts and culture outside the confines of concert halls and museums and into public spaces during events such as the Istana open house. Through NAC’s Silver Arts Programme, we have arts programmes designed for seniors.
  36. To provide youths with opportunities to showcase their creative talent and energy, NAC has partnered *SCAPE to roll out the Busking@*SCAPE programme. Under this programme, Singaporeans between 15 to 35 years old are not required to go through auditions or be endorsed under NAC’s Busking Scheme. Instead, they can register for time slots to busk at the prominent *SCAPE front-of-house which faces Orchard Cineleisure. The scheme was piloted from October last year. To date, more than 60 buskers have showcased their talents.
  37. To provide buskers with greater access to spaces, NAC will gradually introduce the concept of busking zones at Singapore River and Ang Mo Kio from April this year. Each zone comprises a cluster of busking locations, allowing buskers the flexibility to move between them. This offers a more varied busking experience for audiences and ensures equitable access to popular busking spots.
  38. NAC will continue to engage venue partners and the busking community to review busking locations, manage busking activities, and co-develop suitable programmes. I hope my fellow members will offer your constituencies for buskers to perform.
  39. NAC will also develop a digital scheduling tool for buskers to pre-book their performance slots. With this, members of the public and venue partners can look forward to more vibrant spaces and a diverse busking calendar.
  40. Mr Darryl David asked about community engagement efforts to safeguard our cultural heritage. We will do this in partnership with the community, through public education and outreach, research and documentation. This year, there are two highlights – The Stewards of Singapore’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Award and the outcome of the UNESCO Hawker Culture in Singapore nomination in December.
  41. The safeguarding, promotion and transmission of our intangible cultural heritage or ICH, will not be possible without the contributions of our ICH practitioners. These individuals will be honoured at the inaugural Stewards of Singapore’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Award ceremony held in conjunction with the Singapore Heritage Festival this year.
  42. Over the past year, we were heartened by the strong support from the community for our UNESCO Hawker Culture in Singapore nomination. We will continue to strengthen community support through platforms such as Singapore Heritage Festival, community events and travelling exhibitions to schools to celebrate our Hawker Culture. We are lucky to have hawkers who continue to work tirelessly to serve Singaporeans amid this COVID-19 period.
  43. Beyond shared stories, traditions and practices that are passed on from generation to generation, our heritage is also embodied in historical buildings and neighbourhood icons. We will partner local shop owners within Singapore’s historic precincts to co-create Street Corner Heritage Galleries, and highlight heritage right in our neighbourhoods.
  44. NHB museums, heritage institutions and community galleries will partner local shop owners to create “mini museums” within their shops to showcase their history and heritage, trades and products through information panels, displays of historical documents, photographs and artefacts. The Street Corner Heritage Galleries may also develop programmes, such as tours and workshops, and participate in events such as Singapore Heritage Festival and the respective CultureFestivals of the heritage institutions.
  45. Balestier will be the first precinct, with five Street Corner Heritage Galleries opening to the public from tomorrow.  Loong Fatt Tau Sar Piah along Balestier Road will host one such Gallery. With a history dating back to 1948, visitors to the family run business can watch the stallholders mould the dough, stuff with mung bean filling and bake using traditional gas-fired ovens.
  46. By 2022, there will be Street Corner Heritage Galleries in four other historic precincts - Kampong Gelam, Kreta Ayer, Little India and Geylang Serai. These places will serve as reminders of our living heritage and anchor our memories as we move into the future together.
  47. Mr Chairman, I will continue in Mandarin.




  48. In conclusion, Mr Chairman, at MCCY, we are committed to providing opportunities for all, growing a democracy of deeds and nurturing a vibrant home. Our work covers a wide range of areas – arts, heritage, youth, sports, community relations and the strengthening of a giving culture. At its heart, our efforts seek to make Singapore a caring, cohesive and confident nation.
  49. There is much we can achieve by working hand-in-hand, and by encouraging individuals and groups to come together for the common good. Let us continue to celebrate our collective achievements and build a shared future together.

Last updated on 06 March 2020