Closing Remarks by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law, at the NYC Leaders Course Closing Ceremony on 26 June 2023
30 June 2023
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are here to celebrate during this Closing Ceremony for the inaugural NYC Leaders Course.
I hope you have found the experiences enriching and enjoyed the programmes curated for you to have a stronger appreciation of Singapore, and to hear your perspectives and what you see in Singapore’s future.
I hope that you were able to make new friends, and will make an effort to continue to keep in touch with them.
Looking Ahead, Remain Grounded in our Founding Values
Why did we start the NYC Leaders Course?
The NYC Leaders Course was designed for young leaders like yourselves develop your leadership potential by broadening your horizon, coming out of your comfort zone and experience learning beyond the classroom in places such as OBS and the OCBC Arena.
This sense of perspective is important because the world we live in has changed significantly. External conflicts are complex.
Tensions between US and China has a deep impact on societies, economies, and international relations;
The Russia-Ukraine war, which started a year ago and with no certainty of ending in sight, has affected our supply chains and our lives;
Wars, tensions and cost of living have led to “friendshoring” or “reshoring”, new terms to describe protecting ourselves and our friends rather than finding benefit in globalisation and global collaborations.
Internally, we are facing our own challenges.
We are a small country and price takers in the global market.
90% of what we consume are imported and 33% includes electrical machinery equipment while 22% involves mineral fuels. Inflation in global prices causes us to bear the brunt and this has had an impact on our cost of living;
Potential fault lines such as nationality, race, and ethnicity, have the potential to divide us if not managed well;
An ageing population has a huge impact on healthcare costs and the vibrancy of our economy.
A more troubled world challenges us to take a step back and reflect on what is needed to take Singapore forward.
We are a unique country, with a unique history and context, which has shaped the way we think, govern, and plan.
We cannot take this for granted, and we have made difficult decisions, often times not popular, but based on the incredible foresight that our pioneers had in policymaking.
We cannot just be better than our neighbours but be better than ourselves. We have made investments such as Terminal 5 so that we remain strong as an airport hub. We have also invested in Tuas Megaport so that our economic opportunities remain in the future.
Our founding leaders overcame the challenges of a young nation and were guided by principles and values that have become foundational to Singapore.
These fundamentals, based on multiculturalism, boldness, resilience, openness, integrity, and service to others, form the bedrock of Singapore’s success.
How we got here offers us clues for how far we will go in the future.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth year of our founding Prime Minister, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.
Together with our founding leaders, he led Singapore to become the peaceful, prosperous, and multicultural nation as we know today. They had incredible foresight and planned beyond their generation.
Over the past three days, you have had the space to reflect on our founding values. We stand on the shoulders of these giants and we now have the chance to lead Singapore.
Brick by brick, step by step, our founders have build our young nation. We may not be perfect but most important is the sense of social cohesion and unity.
Embracing Challenges, Seizing Opportunities
A key ingredient of our success and future successes lies in how we can move forward together, united in our values and identity, yet preserving our diversity in practices, cultures, and customs.
We must support one another, stand united, and not let faultlines based on race, religion, sexuality and gender divide us.
The NYC Leaders Course brings all of you together to open up your perspectives. Many have said that young people lack experience. Allow me to share a quote: “You only lack experience if they wanted it done the same old way”. As such, you may not have experience, but you come with your perspectives and ideas to contribute and add value to Singapore.
A few months ago, I shared that we will be setting up youth panels this year, where youths like yourselves can be involved in co-developing policy recommendations so that you have a stake in shaping the future of our nation on specific topics of youth interest.
We want to empower youths and provide them with information and different perspectives;
Engage in difficult conversations to better understand diverse interests of different stakeholder groups and finding common ground;
Appreciate the trade-offs and challenges, weighing them based on different baskets of needs and making hard decisions that may not be popular.
This is a concrete example of how we are reshaping our social compact, by giving our youths a greater and more meaningful say in the policies, which may affect you.
I hope that this NYC Leaders Course has been a fruitful experience. The power of face-to-face interactions made it possible to build connections, communicate and collaborate with one another.
I circle back to the point I made about unity. Unity is about our space we can call our own where our dreams and aspirations matter. We must find a social compact that resonates with our aspirations and work together to take Singapore forward.
Continue to stay in touch with us. As young leaders, make use of the opportunities provided by NYC to further develop your interest and hone your leadership skills. I am confident that you will become good leaders for Singapore and future generations.