Govt to fund post-SG50 ground-up projects

PM Lee meeting guests at last night's appreciation dinner for those who played a part in last year's SG50 events. He also officiated a ceremony for a time capsule that will contain items such as identity cards and school uniforms, and which will be o
PM Lee meeting guests at last night's appreciation dinner for those who played a part in last year's SG50 events. He also officiated a ceremony for a time capsule that will contain items such as identity cards and school uniforms, and which will be opened for centennial celebrations in 2065.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Singapore's Golden Jubilee celebrations have ended, but the Government will continue to fund meaningful projects that are in the same spirit as the many events organised by Singaporeans last year, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said last night.

Over 400 initiatives proposed by individuals and groups of citizens to mark Singapore's 50th birthday were funded by the SG50 Celebration Fund last year.

Given the success of such projects, he said he discussed the matter with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and announced that he will "find a way to set aside some resources in this coming Budget to support and catalyse many more ground-up initiatives in the spirit of care, togetherness and enthusiasm in building our Singapore".

"SG50 has come to a close. But our SG story doesn't end. Let us continue this journey towards our future together," Mr Heng, who headed the SG50 steering committee, said at an appreciation dinner for those who played a part in the numerous celebratory events last year.

Sport enthusiasts Dennis Quek and Wilson Ang were among the 700 guests at the Gardens by the Bay event. They tapped the SG50 fund for a project to take 100 wheelchair users on a tour of Pulau Ubin last June. The effort involved Singapore navy vessels ferrying participants to the island, as the regular means of transport - bumboats - could not take wheelchair users.

The duo plan to organise a similar event at Bukit Timah Hill.

"It may be just a hill, but to someone in a wheelchair it might as well be Mount Everest," Mr Quek said. "I'm glad the Government is committed to continue its support for ideas such as ours."

Another Singaporean who tapped the SG50 fund was Mr Paskaran Sreekaram. His multiracial drumming group, Rhythm Masala, combined Chinese, Malay and Indian percussion instruments and performed at locations such as the Singapore Flyer, Jurong Bird Park and community centres. People in the audience got to try their hand at the different types of drums.

The group is now thinking of taking their act overseas to showcase Singapore's multiracial culture.

PM Lee, who was the guest of honour last night, said SG50 was not just about the past but also about Singapore's future.

That is why the final major event was the Future of Us exhibition at Gardens by the Bay, where Singaporeans penned their wishes for the country.

He read out some of these wishes and said he contributed the Chinese phrase qian cheng wan li, which means a journey without limit and filled with possibilities.

As part of last night's celebration, PM Lee also officiated a ceremony for a time capsule that will contain various items throughout Singapore's history such as identity cards, school uniforms and the Electronic Road Pricing in-vehicle unit.

The capsule has not yet been buried but will be placed at Gardens by the Bay, and will be opened in time for Singapore's centennial celebrations in 2065.

"I'm not sure I'll be there for the ceremony, but I'm sure that many of you will be," he quipped.

"When you open it, I hope that it'll not only bring back memories of this SG50 Jubilee Year, but will cause you to look back at the 50 years that will have gone by, and to be able to say we've taken Singapore forward together."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 19, 2016, with the headline 'Govt to fund post-SG50 ground-up projects'. Print Edition | Subscribe