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Minister speech at the launch of Bridgespan Southeast Asia

Remarks by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, and Second Minister for Law, at the Bridgespan Southeast Asia Launch event

Mr William Foster, Managing Partner, The Bridgespan Group,
Mr Chris Addy, Head of Southeast Asia, The Bridgespan Group,
Mr Satish Shankar, Regional Managing Partner of APAC, Bain & Company,
Mr Edmund Lin, Chairman of Southeast Asia, Bain & Company,
Distinguished guests,

  1. Good afternoon. 
  2. It is my great pleasure to be with you this afternoon as we welcome Bridgespan Southeast Asia into Singapore and at this launch. Thank you very much for having me here. 
  3. Philanthropy is a growth area in Singapore and Asia

  4. This launch represents the growth of the giving sector in Singapore. More importantly it also represents how much more it can continue to grow in the years ahead, not just in Singapore, but also in the region.
  5. Over the last two years, the world’s wealth levels have increased significantly, as pandemic-related restrictions and changes in lifestyle have resulted in greater wealth accumulation. Asia’s ultra-high-net-worth population – defined as those having at least 30 million US dollars of investable assets – grew by 7% to 170,000 individuals, and it is projected that Asia’s ultra-high-net-worth population will grow faster than the global average in the next five years. By 2025, two in five billionaires worldwide will be from Asia.
  6. While wealth accumulation has grown significantly, philanthropy has not grown in proportion to it. As much as 700 billion US dollars per year could be unlocked if Asia were to match the United States in philanthropic spending, by donating the equivalent of 2% of its GDP.
  7. One area of potential philanthropic growth is families and family offices. Families in Asia accumulate wealth faster than in any other region today. To manage this expansion of wealth, the number of family offices in Singapore has grown to around 700 in 2021. In Singapore, and elsewhere in the region, more family businesses are looking to create impact, and leave a lasting legacy through their work.
  8. Families using wealth meaningfully is not new to Singapore. In fact, we have a long and rich history of local philanthropy. One example is Hajjah Fatimah.
    1. Nearly a hundred years ago, Hajjah Fatimah fatefully survived when her home was burgled and set on fire. In gratitude, she built a mosque on the land where her home used to be, rebuilt her home close to it, and set aside surrounding land for homes for the poor. All these were part of a wakaf, which is an Islamic form of perpetual endowment.
    2. This philanthropic spirit continued with Hajjah Fatimah’s family. After her passing, her daughter Raja Siti also created a wakaf, with half of its income going to charity, and held feasts for the poor on the anniversary of her mother’s death. 
    3. Hajjah Fatimah’s name lives on in Hajjah Fatimah Mosque, a national monument and one of the few mosques in Singapore named after a female benefactor. Her story, and others like it, continues to inspire local family businesses today. 

    Singapore is working towards becoming a philanthropic hub for the region.

  9. Today, we are building on the philanthropic efforts of our pioneers like Hajjah Fatimah, to become a philanthropic hub for the region. That is our aspiration. This is also part of the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s plan to position Singapore as a leading international financial centre in Asia – one that aims to strengthen both financial and social sectors, and encourage those who are more well-off to give back to society in Singapore and the region.
  10. One project that Singapore is embarking on is Genomics for Kids in ASEAN, led by Temasek Foundation.
    1. The project aims to reach patients with serious undiagnosed medical conditions, and give them access to genomic sequencing and diagnosis.
    2. It will be overseen by Singhealth Duke-NUS Maternal and Child Health Research Institute. They have plans to provide genetic counselling and treatment for more than 700 families in ASEAN.
    3. They also aim to build an ASEAN genetic registry to better understand rare genetic diseases in the region. The diseases that these patients have may be rare, but the care, compassion and support that we have for them, should not be. 
  11. Within Singapore, the SG Cares Movement rallies like-minded individuals to build a richer philanthropic ecosystem and a stronger network and connections amongst the players within the ecosystem. This will strengthen our social compact for a caring and inclusive Singapore society. One that makes care inclusion not just a nice byline or slogan for Singapore but materialises in action and deeds.
  12. A sustainable social compact involves the Government, businesses, unions, the people sector, society, and individuals. All these groups must be deeply invested and feel a sense of responsibility for their part in our social compact because social compact cannot be made without everyone in that society coming together, especially as we look towards the future through the Forward Singapore exercise. 
  13. It is important to have more corporate groups involved and invested in the work of building Singapore up as a hub for giving, and a place from which positive impact radiates. 
  14. Today, we are happy to welcome Bridgespan to Singapore as they join us in this work. 
  15. Singapore is in the middle of Southeast Asian region that is the most culturally diverse and with the most potential. By 2030, we are expected to become the fourth largest economy in the world, as a region. You have the largest proportion of young people anywhere in the world so the potential for growth and headroom for expansion is tremendous. And if you look round the world today, you might say that it is going to be the Asian decade, but I would ask you to look closely at Southeast Asia. It is one region where despite COVID-19, it remains the destination for the most foreign direct investments. This tells you a little bit about the growth potential, not just what it has been in the past, but the trajectory that we would likely to see over the 10 to 15 years. 
  16. As a global non-profit organization with 22 years of experience in helping to create strong social sectors, Bridgespan is well placed to help strengthen Singapore as a regional philanthropic hub in the years to come. Over the years, it has helped to spur philanthropy and impact investing in multiple markets around the world, through advising mission-driven organization, philanthropists and impact investors. Their work in research also helps to advance these sectors a lot more broadly, and allow us to think deeply about the causes we wish to serve. 
  17. I look forward to seeing how Bridgespan and all of us in this room, can play a part in creating an even more vibrant philanthropic ecosystem in Southeast Asia right here from Singapore. 
Last updated on 03 November 2022