No Heng, but minister's message to students gets through

Dare to be G.O.O.D - Global, Outstanding, take Ownership and Deliver. That was the message that Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat had prepared for the 300 students who attended yesterday's Think Future forum finale to discuss policies that will drive Singapore forward in the next 50 years.

This was revealed by Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, who took his place after Mr Heng suffered a sudden stroke last week and read excerpts from his speech.

Mr Ong added that to be outstanding, the young would need the tenacity to persist despite failures. They should also take ownership not only of their own success but that of the future of Singapore and deliver results, based on their knowledge and experiences.

He also highlighted the need to work together, praising the efforts of those who acted quickly to aid Mr Heng - from the doctors in Cabinet to the surgeons at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

He also pointed out how Mr Heng's fellow MPs in Tampines GRC are taking over his duties there, while Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam is stepping into his role as Finance Minister.

"When the time calls for it, Singaporeans come together," said Mr Ong, who is also Senior Minister of State for Defence, adding that teamwork was a virtue needed to take Singapore to SG100.

The forum at Institute of Technical Education College Central yesterday, attended by students from tertiary institutions here, was the final part of the Think Future programme, which involved 100 young people learning about public policy over a period of eight months.

During the event, four groups of students, shortlisted from a total of 11 initially, presented policy ideas on areas such as housing and productivity. Ideas presented included tiered HDB grants for those who want to live near their parents, the amount depending on distance.

Another was for small and medium-sized enterprises to share resources in areas such as human resources and training to cut costs and make them more productive.

The award for best work-group policy went to the society and identity work group, made up of seven members aged between 18 and 24. Its ideas included integrating community projects into the secondary school curriculum, and using the arts as a means to teach racial harmony and empathy for the disabled.

Group member Clarence Ong praised the Think Future programme for encouraging active citizenry among young Singaporeans.

"Youth don't always have a platform to reach out to policymakers," said 20-year-old Mr Ong, who recently graduated from Ngee Ann Polytechnic with a diploma in arts business management.

All the groups will receive funding from the National Youth Council to implement their ideas in pilot trials, beginning in July this year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 15, 2016, with the headline 'No Heng, but minister's message to students gets through'. Print Edition | Subscribe