Speech By Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister For Finance and Manpower, At The People's Association Youth Movement 40th Anniversary Dinner19 Nov 2011
Mr Lim Swee Say, Deputy Chairman, People's Association (PA),
Mr Yam Ah Mee, Chief Executive Director of the PA,
Ms Lina Chong, Chairman,
PA Youth Movement (PAYM) Central Youth Council
Youth Executive Committee Members,
Ladies and gentlemen
1 It is a real privilege for me to join you here at the PAYM 40th Anniversary Dinner.
2 The PAYM was established in 1971, just six years after Singapore declared its independence from Malaysia. Singapore was fighting for its survival as a country. Nation building took centre stage. Creating jobs, integrating people of different races and social stability were matters of survival. Life then was simpler too, with few technological gadgets in the home. Community Centres, with their basic facilities for activities and courses, were the focal points in the neighbourhoods. Watching television together with neighbours at the CCs was a common pastime.
3 Forty years has brought a transformation in people's lives, in our young, and consequently too for the PAYM. Singapore becomes more economically advanced and our people more educated, diverse in their interests and resourceful. The PAYM has evolved to provide a broad spectrum of programmes and more partnerships with stakeholders to meet the changing aspirations of youths and needs of the community.
4 As Lina spoke about earlier, over the past few years alone, PAYM has seen more long-term, programme-based initiatives being implemented. There is also now a wider network of micro youth communities within the PAYM - offering more touch points to engage different segments of youths.
5 PAYM has continued to promote cause-based initiatives, to encourage youths to contribute to their communities meaningfully. There are now 65 sustainable community service programmes implemented by 35 YECs that regularly engage and help residents such as the needy elderly, children and those with special needs. I commend the efforts and commitment of the YECs and all your volunteers in developing and sustaining these meaningful community programmes. Each initiative makes life better and more hopeful, and brings warmth to the hearts of residents in need.
Nurturing and Developing Community Leaders
6 The current achievements of the PAYM are possible because of the dedication and efforts of several generations of YEC members over the past 40 years. Many are still contributing towards the community in their own ways. A few are now Grassroots Advisers, while others are leading CC Management Committees and Citizens' Consultative Committees, such as Mr Abdullah Shafiie Bin Mohamed Sidik (BBM) in Joo Chiat and Mr Lim Huan Chiang (BBM) in Radin Mas. Our young YEC members too are being given more opportunities to take on key roles in the other GROs - such as Mr Foong Yong Keong, Eunos CC YEC Vice-Chairman, who, at 25 years old, was appointed as the Chairman of Eunos Zone 3 RC and is currently the youngest RC Chairman.
7 The PAYM has also nurtured outstanding youth leaders who have excelled in arenas beyond the grassroots network. A number of them have also won accolades for their contribution towards the community. In particular, amongst past winners of the Singapore Youth Award Individual Awards in the Community and Youth Services category, the PAYM has nurtured five of them - Mr Low Wun Kong in 1990, Ms Grace Ng (PBM) in 1997, Mr Lee Hong Chuang (PBM) in 2004, Ms Eunice Olsen in 2006 and Ms Lina Chong in 2009.
8 The PAYM has certainly and should continue to be the bedrock of nurturing and developing youth and community leaders.
9 Our outreach has also grown signficantly. With the joint efforts of the YECs over the past 40 years, the PAYM has grown from 2,500 members in 1972 to its current network of 340,000 members below 35 years, or little over a quarter of the youth population in Singapore.
10 To keep up and broaden further PAYM's reach, we have to find new ways to engage our youth. There is greater diversity of social interests, mixed perceptions of grassroots leaders, more options beyond the PAYM that youths can choose from if they want to be more active, and more media platforms where they can voice their views. The demands of studies, family, work and social life are also competing pulls.
11 With these challenges and as we look towards the future, we have to ask and reflect on some fundamentals, not just for the Movement as a whole, but also for each YEC.
(i) Engaging Youths through Cause-Based Programmes
12 With youths having many more options, how will the PAYM and YECs design and develop your programmes to engage them meaningfully? What cause-based programmes and interest groups can be initiated to bring fellow youth together to grow their passions, speak up and be heard, and make a difference to society? How can our youth give voices to those at the margins of the community so that their aspirations are heard?
(ii) A Learning Youth Movement
13 While we focus on reaching out to more youths through different channels, what can we do to develop the potential and capabilities of our YEC members and project volunteers? PAYM must be a learning youth movement - you grow through the PAYM, and the PAYM will strengthen and grow with you.
(iii) Back to Basics
14 While we explore innovative ways to reach out to youths in this ever-changing society, we should also not forget the fundamental roles of the PAYM in supporting the PA to promote social cohesion, racial harmony and an active community among Singaporeans.
15 Your basic mission has remained the same despite the remarkable changes of the last 40 years. The PAYM and YECs have a special responsibility to build and bridge communities through different channels, and across all ages, races and estates. We must regularly carry the message of integration to our youth, through your activities and through personal friendships and teamsmanship.
16 The PAYM 40th Anniversary this year marks a milestone in an important and fruitful journey, a journey that is driven by youth with the ideals and passion to play a part in making Singapore a vibrant, caring and cohesive society.
17 As youths, what you do will determine the future of our country and the face of our society. I urge all of you to build on the foundation set by past and current YEC members and continue with your good work of youth and community engagement. I am confident you will press on towards your vision of being "A Chapter in Every Youth", always reaching out, always relevant, to touch the lives of every Singaporean youth as they grow up in Singapore and prepare them for a bright future together.
18 With that, Happy 40th Anniversary!