Opening Speech by Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, Minister of State for Finance and Transport, at The Launch of The NYAA-S2006 ASEAN Youth Community Project, Tuesday, 25 April 2006 at 9.00am at Singapore Polytechnic25 Apr 2006
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I am very happy to be here this morning to launch the ASEAN Youth Community Project. Organised by the National Youth Achievement Award Council (NYAA), in conjunction with the Singapore 2006 World Bank / IMF Annual Meetings, the ASEAN Youth Community Project is to bring together youth leaders from all 10 ASEAN countries in a single community service mission. As Minister overseeing the preparations for Singapore 2006, let me say how proud we are to be associated with a project of such significance.
2. So what is the connection between the ASEAN youth project and Singapore 2006? One is about 90 youth leaders going to Cambodia in June to refurbish a school in the rural area. The other is about 16,000 high-level delegates and visitors that Singapore will host during the World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings in September.
3. But in fact the objectives of the ASEAN Youth Community Project and Singapore 2006 are not so far apart and removed from each other. Certainly, both revolve around three key prongs. First, Singapore's (and Singaporeans') role as a global citizen; second, the nature of collective effort through ASEAN and building a regional community; and third, the importance of active citizenry and how our youth can make a real difference. Let me elaborate a little on each of these in turn.
International Responsibilities: Singapore as a Global Citizen
4. As a small country - 4 million people, no natural resources - Singapore is particularly exposed to regional and global developments. Whether it is a tsunami at our neighbours' doors, or the Asian Financial Crisis, or boom time in the Chinese and Indian economies, Singapore's fortunes are intimately tied to regional fortunes and global sentiments. Given this backdrop, Singaporeans must look beyond our shores and embrace the notion of a borderless world and single global community, and perhaps even more so than countries who are similarly grappling with greater economic integration or the often-touted ills of globalization..
5. As global citizens, it is vital for us to be aware of the role we can play, and to take seriously our international responsibilities towards poverty alleviation, technical assistance, and capacity building where these are most needed. We have read in the papers of many individuals and local organizations - such as the NYAA - who have volunteered their time in disaster- and poverty-stricken areas; and how cross-border friendships are formed as a result. At the government level, Singapore has always endeavoured to make useful contributions, whether it is by providing scholarships to talented foreign students or by being involved in capacity building initiatives.
6. It is also in this context that this September, Singapore will play host to its largest ever international conference, the Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Some 16,000 delegates and visitors from 184 countries, including heads of government, finance ministers, central bank governors, top financiers and chief executives will participate in a series of high-level seminars and programmes centred on topics such as debt relief, anti-corruption, and financial integration. At the IMF/WB Spring Meetings held over last weekend in Washington DC, the UK Chancellor and Chairman of the International Monetary and Finance Committee, Mr Gordon Brown said that the Singapore Annual Meetings will be the reform summit for the IMF..
7. In other words, S2006 will bring to the fore many of the developmental issues championed by the World Bank and IMF, generate new ideas, and focus more attention on our shared mission of improving living standards in developing countries. It is therefore appropriate that as part of lead-up activities to Singapore 2006, we have commissioned the upcoming Youth Community Project. Singaporeans always say, "No Action, Talk Only". Well, we hope that this Project will symbolize our commitment not just to talking, but also to taking concrete action.
Multiplying our efforts through ASEAN
8. In making plans for this project, the S2006 Organising Committee and NYAA were very clear from the start that it should not be restricted to Singapore youth leaders alone. Instead, we wanted the initiative to reflect what we have known to be true over the years - that collective action by ASEAN multiplies our efforts and leads to greater results.
9. At the specific project level, these ASEAN-wide exchanges and regional projects do much more than harness synergies between countries or reap economies of scale. The more important and long-term goal is that such projects will foster a greater sense of mutual understanding and belonging among the people and future leaders of this region. The experience will allow our youth to learn from one another and work together despite diverse social and cultural backgrounds. Each would also bring home a greater awareness of the common heritage and aspirations we all share as members of ASEAN..
10. The presence of our ASEAN ambassadors here today speaks to the strong support and endorsement that the ASEAN governments give to projects of this nature. Recognising that one country and one small voice is not going to be as resonant as ten countries and ten voices speaking as one, the ASEAN governments have worked hard to accelerate economic development and integration within the region, reduce the developmental gaps between the ASEAN-6 and the newer ASEAN members, and establish a greater sense of community among the different peoples. This was the ASEAN 2020 Vision that our Leaders agreed on in Kuala Lumpur in 1997, and the goal which we continue to work towards today.
11. Hence, it is only right that with the World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings finally reconvening in Asia this year, we should take the opportunity to focus the world's attention on the vibrancy and dynamism of the ASEAN economies, and to showcase the significant developments and structural reforms that have taken place in this region since the Asian Financial Crisis. The Singapore Story is one that we are proud of and that we are constantly developing. But the "Promise of ASEAN" - an integrated, networked ASEAN - must be the clarion call that S2006 makes to investors and market watchers all over the world. It is for this reason that the ASEAN Finance Ministers have committed to do an ASEAN Roadshow during S2006 to showcase the growth potential and investment opportunities of our region.
Active Citizenry: "Are You Ready?"
12. Finally, I would like to touch on the importance of active citizenry. Every society needs people who are involved, interested, and who have the passion to stand up and make a difference in whichever field they choose to contribute. Since 1992, the NYAA has done an excellent job of providing self-development programmes that help our youth to develop life skills and personal qualities such as self-reliance, perseverance, and responsibility. These qualities have put them in a good position to actively participate, and to contribute locally, regionally, and globally.
13. I hope that more youth will take to heart the exceptional example set by the NYAA Gold Award holders here today, and step up to the plate to be active citizens. For a start, they will have a ready platform in the S2006 Annual Meetings. I believe MOE has already been recruiting some 1,000 student leaders to fill roles such as venue ushers, helpdesk officers, and bus hosts that would be needed during the event. These youth ambassadors will be Singapore's and ASEAN's friendly faces to the participants in S2006, from prominent leaders of the international financial world to the supporting delegations who will also b e here.
14. We are also looking forward to the nationwide website design competition that NYAA and S2006 will be launching soon, to encourage young Singaporeans to learn more about the work of the World Bank/IMF, and to present their findings creatively through a website. The winning entries will be presented to the top management of the World Bank and IMF during Singapore 2006, and will be made available for viewing by all VIPs, delegates, and visitors from the 184 member countries attending the meetings..
15. For us, a young nation, Singapore 2006 will be an extraordinary opportunity for us to bring together Singaporeans from all walks of life to participate in hosting the world on our shores, whether as frontline service staff, a youth volunteer, or a public transport worker. It will be an occasion for each of us to showcase our Asian heritage, global outlook, and Uniquely Singapore character. We will soon be rolling out our Singapore 2006 publicity poster in schools, libraries, grassroots and community-based organizations. It will ask each and every Singaporean: "Are You Ready?" I hope that the answer will be a resounding "Yes!"
16. Let me once again congratulate the NYAA Gold Award youths for being chosen to lead the ASEAN youth team to Cambodia. I wish you and these outstanding ASEAN youth leaders all the best for the successful completion of the project. It is now my pleasure to officially launch the NYAA-Singapore 2006 ASEAN Youth Community Project.