Addendum to President's Address: Inclusive platform for S'poreans to 'reflect and re-imagine future'

A lady uses her phone while crossing the road at Grange Road on Aug 24, 2020. PHOTO: ST FILE

A series of dialogues for Singaporeans to reflect on Covid-19 will give people the space to discuss "bread-and-butter and key societal issues" and work with the Government to translate these ideas into action.

These Emerging Stronger Conversations will be an inclusive platform for Singaporeans to "reflect and re-imagine the future together", said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong yesterday.

His ministry will also tap young people, creating a 1,000-strong "digital corps" to help community and social sector organisations digitalise.

To foster greater unity, more opportunities will be created for Singaporeans to engage in "respectful dialogue" on sensitive issues of race and religion, he said in outlining his ministry's key priorities in an Addendum to the President's Address on Monday.

Noting that people have come together to support one another during the Covid-19 crisis, he called for this spirit to continue beyond the pandemic.

"We have seen Singaporeans showing empathy, social responsibility and neighbourliness - values and behaviours that underpin a cohesive and caring society," he said. "More ground-up movements are emerging to propagate community-based initiatives for mutual support and we will support them."

Organisations such as the Youth Corps Singapore will help usher in this positive change, with ground-up projects able to get grants.

The end goal is to strengthen the social compact and get Singaporeans to interact and bond, said Mr Tong.

Singapore has reached the midpoint of its five-year road maps for the arts and heritage sectors, and these plans are now being reviewed, he added.

It will grow the arts scene despite the impact of the pandemic, and cultivate its heritage, both tangible and intangible. For instance, the #SGCultureAnywhere initiative compiles virtual tours and performances that Singaporeans can watch "while our physical spaces take a brief interlude".

Singapore also hopes to spur national athletes with schemes, including scholarships and funding. Other government efforts to develop the sector include offering affordable programmes under the ActiveSG portal as well as continuing to build and upgrade sports facilities.

"Sports can inspire Singaporeans to rally together as a nation, and celebrate with our sporting heroes," Mr Tong said.

Young Singaporeans will also be equipped with the skills and knowledge to capitalise on opportunities in the region, through the Asia-Ready Exposure Programme.

And youth-sector organisations will work with the Government to create programmes for young people. These include life skills training on topics such as financial planning and mental well-being resources.

Young people who wish to start ground-up efforts to promote mental well-being will also get support through the Youth Mental Well-being Network, Mr Tong added.

"Singaporeans have undergone a shared experience that has changed our lives," he said. "We must reflect on and learn from what is happening and how we can emerge stronger as a society."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2020, with the headline Addendum to President's Address: Inclusive platform for S'poreans to 'reflect and re-imagine future'. Subscribe