SINGAPORE - More power to shape the future of the country will be placed in the hands of Singapore's youth, under a new initiative that will allow them to highlight issues they care about and propose solutions.
A panel will be formed to help articulate a youth vision for the Republic in 2025 and create an action plan to achieve it, Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth Sim Ann said in Parliament on Friday (March 8). The ministry defines youth as those between the ages of 15 and 35.
Appointed youth leaders from various sectors and organisations will engage their peers in developing the SG Youth Action Plan, Ms Sim said during the debate on her ministry's budget. The plan will identify priority areas, which may range from jobs and employment to mental health, she added.
Opportunities will also be created for young people to provide policy recommendations and create partnership projects with government and other stakeholders. The panel will be formed by the middle of this year and jointly led by Ms Sim and a youth leader, who has yet to be named.
The SG Youth Action Plan expands on the Youth Conversations dialogue series, which engaged more than 8,000 young people in 2018 on topics such as social inequality and environmental sustainability.
The series will continue this year with a new digital platform, which will incorporate tools such as polling and discussion functions and have a beta launch in April.
The rise of digital technology and social media have accelerated changes in how youth produce and consume goods, services and information, as well as how they relate to one another and derive meaning and identity, Ms Sim noted.
"This has created more diversity in our midst but also the potential for significant divergence in values and choices between the generations," she said, adding that society must understand and respond to shifts in the youth sector.
For a start, young people will have a voice in revamping the Somerset area, as part of larger plans to transform Orchard Road, said Ms Sim.
A designated Youth Belt, which will span the area from *Scape and Cathay Cineleisure Orchard mall to the junction of Somerset and Killiney roads, will serve as a hub for youth-oriented organisations, businesses and service providers.
From April, young people will be invited to share their ideas for the area. Shortlisted proposals will be put up for feedback before further development and implementation by government agencies and stakeholders.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) told The Straits Times: "The exact implementation date of the proposals will depend on the nature of the ideas. Some of the ideas could involve new programming, which could be launched in the near term."
This effort, which is part of the SG Youth Action Plan, will be co-led by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth Baey Yam Keng.
MCCY told ST that while spaces along Somerset Road, such as *Scape, The Red Box and Skate Park, already serve as congregation points for youth, the area's potential can be better realised "through a masterplan that looks at the ecosystem of infrastructure, activities and stakeholders along the belt".
The ministry is working with the Singapore Tourism Board and Urban Redevelopment Authority to ensure that the Youth Belt complements the wider rejuvenation plans for Orchard Road, it said.
Ms Carmen Low, who helped turn the rooftop carpark of People's Park Complex into youth-oriented eatery and events space Lepark, said that providing young people with a platform to unleash their creativity is the crux of youth engagement.
While Lepark closed in 2017 after three years, Ms Low, 32, is still part of the Getai Group collective that helped to organise music and performance arts events at the venue and other locations.
There is huge potential for transformation in the Somerset area, which is currently "positioned as too commercialised and restricted", she said.
"Having successfully built a few outdoor spaces for youth, I personally feel that the key to it is in providing safe spaces for them to create," said Ms Low, adding that once young people "start to put in their own touch to the space, they will want to own it".