SINGAPORE - Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat has urged Singapore's young to go forth and seize the fast-growing opportunities in Asia to build a better tomorrow for themselves.
Speaking to 540 students at the annual Pre-University Seminar, Mr Heng made the point that for the first time, the fourth industrial revolution is not just happening to Asia but is occurring in Asia, with many Asian companies being among the most innovative and best regarded businesses in the world.
"The gross domestic product share of Asia is projected to grow from 26 per cent to 50 per cent by 2050", he noted on Thursday (June 6) at the opening ceremony.
Into its 50th edition, this year's event will focus on the current Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is marked by networked technologies, robots, artificial intelligence and 3D printing.
The youngsters will present their ideas on achieving sustainable and positive outcomes for Singapore on Saturday, to be attended by Education Minister Ong Ye Kung.
In his speech, Mr Heng also highlighted Asean, calling it a beacon of growth in Asia.
With a young and growing population of more than 600 million, it is projected to become the fourth-largest economy in 2030.
"So the next wave of opportunities will be in Asia, and in our Asean region, and Singapore is well positioned to seize these opportunities," he said
Aside from calling on the young to venture into Asia, the Deputy Prime Minister also expressed the hope that at home, they can build a strong community and that they will "dream big but stay rooted".
On its part, the Government is creating more opportunities for Singaporeans to venture abroad. But, he added, there remains a perception that Asia is "lagging behind the potential it has to offer".
A new academy, for instance, was set up in September 2018 to send Singapore students abroad for internships at start-ups or companies that undertake entrepreneurship and innovation.
But in venturing abroad, Singapore's young need to be sensitive to cultural norms to interact effectively. This is important, Mr Heng said, adding that the best way to appreciate the culture of a country is to spend some time there.
He encouraged the youngsters to to spend time in countries in South-east Asia and Asia as it will help them "build a better Singapore".
He also assured them the Government will provide opportunities for them to learn, grow and support their dreams.
"Dream big. Don't settle for less. And as you pursue your dream, be assured that Singapore will always be your home, and a safe haven," Mr Heng said.
"All of you here will be architects and builders of Singapore 4.0 and beyond."
"You will face challenges that are different from the ones that your parents and grandparents faced, but I believe that you have what it takes to take us to greater heights. You are attuned to the rapid changes of technology and well-equipped to take advantage of the opportunities in Asia."
Mr Heng also stressed the need to build a strong community, which he said is "key to a brighter future".
This can be achieved by spending time with people outside of the digital world, and building real-life, meaningful relationships, he added.
"At the end of the day, a lasting relationship is not built on a number of likes you give one another, but the times spent and memories made together."
"So do interact and learn more about the people around you... Only then will we be able to understand and appreciate each other's perspectives better," he said.
Mr Heng’s message resonated with 17-year-old K.V. Samyukktha, a fifth-year student of NUS High School of Math and Science, who said social media is indeed changing the way people communicate.
It boils down to personal choice on whether to put aside the phone in favour of face-to-face conversation.
Also 17, Sarah Anyssa Nor Azmi, a fifth-year student from River Valley High School, said young people these days are already well-acquainted with technological advancements.
"The real challenge is how to stick to our roots, heritage and culture even while we are focused on moving forward as a society," she said.