Society's notion of success needs to evolve to encompass self- starters who may fail in their endeavours but have the courage to try and try again, said minister Ong Ye Kung last night.
Mr Ong, Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills), told an awards ceremony: "A new type of Singaporean hero must be the entrepreneur - someone who has a dream or passion, who took risks to do something about it, suffered setbacks and failures but picked himself up again."
He noted that the nation's success is built on the contributions of businessmen like Lim Nee Soon, Gan Eng Seng, the Alsagoff family, Lee Kong Chian and P. Govindasamy Pillai.
To encourage youth to learn a discipline in depth, roll up their sleeves, take risks and create something of their own, Singapore society has to redefine success, said Mr Ong, who was addressing the Singapore Business Awards held at The Ritz-Carlton Millenia.
He recalled an idiom from ancient China which placed the court mandarin above the farmer, the worker and then the businessman.
"But in modern China today, successful tech entrepreneurs are also held in very high regard - like Jack Ma," he said.
Mr Ong also addressed concerns about the "seemingly underwhelming projection" for the economy to achieve 2 to 3 per cent growth in the medium term, as announced by the Committee on the Future Economy. "It would not be credible for Singapore to project high growth rates," he said.
"We should remember that GDP growth rate is a macro number. Many individual businesses do better than this aggregate indicator."
He added: "If a business can leverage technology, venture overseas and tap into the high growth markets of the region - it will perform far better than this macro number.
"Besides, technology helps us break our traditional notion of a market."
The same logic has applied even in big markets like the United States, Mr Ong said.
"Although the US has been experiencing lacklustre annual GDP growth averaging around 2 per cent over the past few years, many companies in the digital media, pharmaceutical, construction, semiconductor and lifestyle industries continue to deliver spectacular growth."