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Recognising the contributions of SGS Co-op

Speech by Mr Alvin Tan, Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth & Trade and Industry at the Singapore Government Staff Credit Co-Operative Society (SGS Co-op) Ltd Members’ E-Meet and Annual Bursary Award 2021 Presentation Ceremony

Mr John Raghavan, Chairman of SGS Co-op,
Members of the Committee of Management,
Fellow SGS Co-op Members and Bursary Award recipients,

  1. Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting me to your Members E-Meet and Annual Bursary Award Presentation Ceremony.
  2. Congratulations to Singapore Government Staff Credit Co-operative Society (SGS Co-op) for successfully organising today’s event in spite of COVID-19.
  3. When I was working on the script, I thought it was quite important to take a step back and to remind ourselves, particularly our younger bursary award recipients, a few things – why we have co-ops, and how important co-ops are to our mission and our society, and to give them a sense of history.

    a. And it's appropriate that we're doing this now because SGS co-op is Singapore's oldest co-op. In fact, you'll be celebrating your Centennial in four years’ time, in 2025. In the span of 100 years, many things have happened. We've seen many different crises across decades. In fact, in 1925, you were founded to provide a form of safe financial relief and to teach members what we now call financial literacy – how to manage income and expenditure.

    b. In the 1920s, there were no trade unions to fight for decent wages. There were no easily available credit loans from financial institutions too. You started off with 32 founding members, and today you have over 7000 members. Your hard work and informed investments over the past 96 years have helped the Society grow exponentially and substantially to be where you are today.
  4. As the first Credit Co-operative in Singapore, SGS Co-op has contributed towards the culture of care – not just to their members, but also to the larger community.

    a. You have actively participated in different grassroot-led activities for the vulnerable in society. This included organising one such event at Thomson community centre (CC), where you provided festive gifts for less privileged families annually. You also organised annual contributions to organisations such as National Kidney Foundation (NKF) and Singapore Children’s Society.

    b. And while you continue to do good, I know that the pandemic has been hard on you and your members. Many of your members are public servants. And I discussed with John earlier, many of the Members of Committee are also our public servants, who in many, many ways, are heroes in this pandemic.
  5. You've been working tirelessly over the last 20 months to keep Singapore safe and running. I just joined the public service just over a year ago, and I see how hard people across our ministries and agencies work together to bring Singapore to where we are today even in the midst of the biggest crisis, arguably, that we will ever face in this generation.
  6. Some of you in the public service are essential workers. You put yourself in the frontlines and at risk during Circuit Breaker, some during the Phase 2 Heightened Alert. You've done so, so that Singapore can continue to run, so thank you very much from the bottom of our hearts.
  7. During the pandemic, SGS Co-op also kept its office open to serve their members and extended a helping hand through useful thrift and loan services and members’ benefits. This shows that during tough times, SGS Co-op is always there, helping to make it through together, and showing how to do so.
  8. Our co-ops are interdependent, member centric organisations that help to build our society and help one another do good for our community. You exemplify the Singapore spirit of being resilient and compassionate.
  9. For the last 47 years, in your 96-year history, the co-op has been granting bursary awards to members. This year, over $42,000 in bursary awards will be given to 172 students. I am very sure this monetary award comes at an appropriate and handy time for many of our deserving students. Our university recipients here today come from a myriad of different disciplines and backgrounds – from Hazeeq who will be studying Dentistry in NUS, to Courtney who will be studying Chemistry in NTU and Aishwarya who is studying Business in SMU.
  10. Let me share more about two of the recipients.  

    a. The first is Daron Oh, who faced difficulties in adjusting to schoolwork when he first started secondary school. However, he later found friends who motivated him to do better. After his many months of hard work, he scored well for his O levels. And he has recently secured his spot in the National University of Singapore to study Computer Science, after serving his National Service.

    b. We also have Jason Loh, who has a keen interest in game design. He pursued a Higher Nitec in Games Design and Development, before furthering his studies to achieve a Diploma in Game Design and Development. This is an upcoming field, and many of you are already playing games and are online, so Jason has a very good future ahead of him. He just completed his National Service and has enrolled in DigiPen (SIT) to pursue a degree in Digital Art and Animation.
  11. Both Daron and Jason have shown two very different paths, but also two inspiring journeys.
  12. My heartiest congratulations to all 2021 Bursary Award recipients. I know it's hard being a student, and even harder during a pandemic. It’s not easy to adjust to so many different changes. So kudos to you for staying focused, and working hard.
  13. I would like to share with you a short story. Just before coming here earlier on, I was online for a zoom presentation award for teachers. And one of them was my Chinese teacher 20 years ago. And you know, 20 years ago, when I was in JC, I did not do well in school and had to repeat a year. And I still remember my Chinese teacher, she was very encouraging. She encouraged me and said, “Don't worry. Just get up and try again”. And during Teachers Day, I posted about her on my Instagram, and many of her students informed her about it. So she texted me, and said, “You know, I just wanted to let you know that I am so proud of you. And I am going to receive this distinguished Chinese teacher award. Would you like to come online? It will mean a lot to me.” So just before coming here, I went online, and I was just so proud of my teacher for teaching me and for being there for me.

    a. We always look back at who has made the journey with us. You know, many of you as students, I'm sure you have one or two teachers, but also mentors and wonderful organisations like SGS Co-op, who have been there at specific times in your journey to help you propel forward.
  14. In this regard, when I was talking to John earlier on, one of the things that is deep in his heart is how to rejuvenate the Committee of Management. And I really commend him for that. Because he has served in SGS for so long, with distinction as a public servant. Yet, he is constantly looking at how to refresh the leadership of the organisation he holds dear. We were talking about that earlier, and he said “I wish I could get more youth and women on the Committee of Management.” So I looked at the list of recipients, and many of you are definitely youths. And many of you like Connie and Aishwarya are promising young ladies. So, I urge you to look back and see that SGS Co-ops has, through the bursary awards, provided a little bit of fuel for you to soar in your careers.

    a. And when you have achieved something in your life, think about coming back, think about serving SGS Co-op, either in the Committee of Management, or in many of the areas that are in need.
  15. So that's my pitch. Hopefully many of you will come back to serve in the future. You are the future of the co-op, and the future of our nation. We rely on you and your generation to help take Singapore beyond this crisis. So without further ado, I look forward to meeting each and every one of them to present the bursary awards. Thank you again to the organising committee and I wish you all a good afternoon ahead. Congratulations again! Thank you.


Last updated on 13 September 2021