Committee of Supply debate: Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth

What's next for arts, sports and community-building?

MPs spoke on doing more for the arts, heritage, sports, volunteerism and youth at the debate on the budget of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth yesterday. Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh looks at some of the issues raised, which Minister Grace Fu and her colleagues will respond to when Parliament sits today.

BUILDING CULTURAL CAPITAL

When it comes to infrastructure, the arts and culture scene has been given a leg up in the past decade: Singapore now has more than 40 galleries, and last year welcomed the long-awaited National Gallery.

But Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC) said these must be complemented by programmes that can engage and excite the public, or "remain nothing more than just impressive infrastructures".

He wanted to hear more about how Singapore has fared in exposing people to the arts, and what comes next in developing the city centre as an arts and cultural belt.

MORE DEVELOPMENTAL SPACES FOR THE ARTS

Nominated MP Kok Heng Leun, artistic director of theatre company Drama Box, suggested making the arts part of community living.

He also called for more venues to help artists hone their craft without the pressure of market forces, such as independent arts centre The Substation. He urged the ministry and the National Arts Council to develop a different funding model for such venues.

ROLE OF PEOPLE'S ASSOCIATION

Ms Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC) enquired about the sharp rise in budget for the People's Association (PA) for FY2016 - at nearly $900 million, a 34 per cent jump from FY2014 - and wanted to know if the PA had deviated from its original purpose of promoting community recreation and fostering cohesion.

"An unhealthy culture seems to have developed within some quarters of the PA, who see its role to include advancing the ruling party politically, and undermining the work of opposition MPs," she said.

SPORTS FACILITIES IN YISHUN

Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) noted that Tampines residents can look forward to an array of new facilities - including 20 badminton courts and a 5,000-seater stadium - when their new town hub opens in stages from November. But what is in store for residents of fast-growing Yishun, which faces a crunch when it comes to sporting facilities? She said: "I have been bringing up this request for a few years, and I will keep bringing it up as long as residents' needs are not addressed."

CHANGING MINDSETS ON SPORTS

Nominated MP Ganesh Rajaram noted that recent years have seen new, world-class sports facilities and programmes to groom talent. But have attitudes towards sport indeed changed?

"Do parents see a sporting career as a viable, respectable career goal? Are Singaporean parents going to be 'sporting' about their child choosing football, swimming or table tennis over medicine, law and banking?"

More has to be done to address how people - and parents in particular - think about sports, he said.

PROMOTING SENIOR VOLUNTEERS

Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC) suggested giving seniors - armed with a lifetime of skills and experience - more chances to give back to society. But those who are just starting out as volunteers may face challenges, she said.

Some struggle to find volunteer work that matches their skills or interests; others find it tough to balance volunteering with family.

She wanted to know what plans the ministry has to manage and encourage these senior volunteers.

DEEPEN RELIGIOUS KNOW-HOW

Conversations about religions still take place on the surface because the youth are afraid their comments "could be offensive and get them into legal trouble", NMP Kuik Shiao-Yin said.

"If we don't model for our youth what respectful conversation about religion looks like, someone arbitrary and potentially dangerous will fill the gap for us. It could be a fundamentalist thought leader, a bigoted website or just prejudiced, ill-informed peers," she said, suggesting that Faith and Reason modules be developed for schools and the wider community.

These could deal with issues like preserving freedom of religion, and the secular nature of the state.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2016, with the headline 'What's next for arts, sports and community-building?'. Print Edition | Subscribe