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Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong at The AMP 4th National Convention on 15 October 2022

15 Oct 2022

Chairman of AMP Singapore, Dr Badrun Nafis Saion and Vice Chairman Mr Hazni Aris

Board Members,

Executive Director of AMP Singapore, Mr Mohksin Rashid

Parliamentary Colleagues

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

  1.   I am very happy to join you this afternoon at AMP’s 4th National Convention. 

a.  I am so glad that we are now able to meet in person like this, in large events, after the last two and half years of restrictions.

b.  I should start by thanking all of you for doing your part over the last two and half years in cooperating with the measures, fighting the virus, and working together to enable us to get through the worst of the pandemic. Thank you very much.

  1. As you all know, the First National Convention of Singapore Muslim professionals was held back in 1990. It was a ground-up initiative started by a group of about 500 young Malay/Muslim professionals who felt that the community was lagging behind and needed to make greater progress. 

a.  They came together to discuss the state of the Malay/Muslim community, and to think of new strategies and solutions to uplift the community .

b.  Then-DPM Goh Chok Tong invited the community to set up its own organisation, parallel to MENDAKI, and offered the Government’s support.

  1. The founders took this suggestion seriously, and a year later the “Association of Muslim Professionals” (AMP) was formed. The Government designated it as a Self-Help Group, and has financially supported it.

  1. Over the past three decades, the AMP has grown in size and made significant contributions to the community. 

a.  One of the AMP’s first programmes was to establish a preschool centre at the Al Amin Mosque in 1992.

b.  Today, AMP has expanded to provide education support for lower-income families, mentorship for youths, financial and employment support for workers, marriage counselling for families, and much more. Over 408,000 people have benefited from AMP’s help since its inception.

c.  Throughout the pandemic, AMP has also stepped up to support the community.  Your “Temporary Assistance Package 2.0” provided not only daily necessities, but also skills upgrading and re-skilling opportunities to help workers affected by Covid-19 to find alternative sources of income.

  1. So this afternoon I would like to put on record my thanks to everyone in the AMP – leaders and members, past and present – for your many contributions to the Malay/Muslim community and to Singapore. Your efforts, your contributions, together with that of other Malay/Muslim organisations, working together with the Government, have helped the community to make progress. For that we are grateful, and the results speak for themselves.

a.  For example, the proportion of Malay residents over 25 who have attained at least a post-secondary qualification has risen from less than one-third in 2010, to almost half in 2020. 

b.  The vast majority of this increase was driven by more Malays obtaining diplomas and degrees.

c.  Concurrently, the proportion of Malays in PMET jobs has also increased to 40% in 2020, up from 30% a decade ago. We are seeing more Malay professionals earning higher incomes and enjoying better living standards. And they are making significant contributions across our society in a whole range of different professions, be it as doctors, biomedical researchers, IT engineers, artists, lawyers, soldiers, just to name a few.

d.  Therefore, not unsurprisingly, the AMP itself has seen a growth in its membership too, with over 1,000 ordinary members today.

  1. These are outcomes which AMP and the entire Malay/Muslim community should be proud of. So once again, congratulations to everyone who have been part of this journey.

  2. The achievement that we can see also illustrate a basic point, which is that we are stronger when we stand together. We saw this clearly in the last two and a half years of the Covid-19 pandemic, when we continued to keep faith with each other, and pulled together as one people during very challenging times.  As a result, today, we are in a better position than before. The pandemic is not over; we hope that the worst is behind us. But compared to many other countries around the world, we are in a much better position, and we have emerged a more cohesive and stronger society despite the challenges we have faced.  In fact, a recent survey done by the Pew Organisation – an international organisation – found that more than 75% of people in Singapore think that we are more united now than before the pandemic started, which is really quite incredible, when you think about it. So we must always remember that we are stronger together. 

  1. “Stronger Together” is true for Singapore as a whole, and it applies to the Malay/Muslim community too. So I would strongly encourage the AMP to continue in this direction of working with other Malay/Muslim organisations, as well as the Government, for the benefit of the community. There will be times when our starting points and methods differ, and there will be occasions when we have different views. But so long as we are all focused on the same goal and the common ground we share as Singaporeans, I am confident that we can work together to make everyone better off. 

a.  One way to do this is by strong collaboration between the Malay/Muslim organisations at the leadership level. I understand that there are leaders of MENDAKI, MUIS, and the other Malay/Muslim organisations here today, and I know that you meet regularly at various platforms to discuss uplifting the community. I would encourage you to continue this regular engagement and partnership, with one another and also with the Government. I would also encourage you to consider serving on each other’s boards and councils, so that you can strengthen that sense of collaboration at the leadership level. 

b.  Equally important is strengthening the spirit of collaboration at the working level. Because the reality is that no one organisation has all the answers, or the entire suite of capabilities to do it alone.

  1. Indeed, what we are increasingly finding is that many of the social issues we face in Singapore are becoming more and more multi-faceted and complex. And to address these issues, to make a real impact on the ground, we do need different community partners to come together to provide holistic interventions and stronger wraparound support. 

a.  Take uplifting lower income families, for example. There are a range of issues we need to deal with. We need to ensure that their children attend pre-school regularly, preferably from a young age as early as 3 years old, and that they are well-supported throughout their education journey. We need to ensure that their parents are able to find good jobs, earn a stable income, and we also might need to address issues around broken relationships and family stability. All this requires different skills and expertise, different community partners, all working together in tandem to make a difference.

b.  This is the approach we have adopted for Project Dian @ M3 which brings together various community groups and Government agencies to work with families in rental flats and help them in their journey towards home ownership. 

c.  I am glad that AMP has been moving in this direction as well. You have supported the Government’s UPLIFT programme to address the multifaced issues of children from disadvantaged homes. And your “Adopt a Family and Youth Scheme” works with various social service agencies and other community organisations to provide that wrap-around intervention and support for less privileged families, which is so important.

d.  I hope that you will continue with this approach, and work closely with other organisations – work closely with other Malay/Muslim organisations, as well as other organisations in the community – to make a difference.

  1. We all know that as Singapore moves forward, the needs of our society are becoming more complex and more diverse. 

a.  That is why we must come together with a family-centric approach – mobilising resources across different entities to meet the needs of the family, rather than force the family to cater to our own organisational silos. If we take the family-centric approach, I believe  we can make progress in uplifting more lower income families, and ensure that Singapore remains a place where everyone can aspire towards a better life.

b.  At the same time, our society in Singapore is rapidly ageing. All of us can see that in our own families and around us. By 2030, one in four Singaporeans will be aged 65 and above – that is about nearly 1 million Singaporeans. It is getting more and more. And we want to take better care of this growing group of seniors. They will also need more help to remain socially active and healthy in the community. We also have families who are in the sandwiched group – meaning to say they will need to take care of their own aged parents and their children at the same time. These families, their seniors, as well as those in the sandwiched group, will also need our help and support. 

c.  On top of these, our growing number of Malay/Muslim professionals have their own unique needs, concerns, as well as aspirations. We will need to see how best to help them, including enabling them to upgrade their skills to remain relevant in the workforce.  

d.  The reality is that Singapore must stay open and connected to the world to survive and thrive. There is no way we can make a living by closing ourselves up. We are just a tiny little red dot. In an increasingly uncertain world, a world characterised by more geopolitical tensions, more uncertainty, more volatility, it is even more important for us to stay open to remain that bastion of stability, where businesses, professionals, entrepreneurs from all over the world will be assured of being able to do business here in Singapore. So as a business hub, we cannot escape global competition, whether it comes from China, or India, or the US, or Europe, or even from our neighbours. We must all face up to this competition. But Singaporeans will not have to go through this journey alone, because the Government will continue to invest heavily in our people – to equip our citizens with relevant capabilities and skills, and give everyone that extra advantage to progress and excel in their careers and professions. Groups like AMP can do your part too, to better equip and empower our Malay/Muslim professionals. 

e.  At the same time, we must mobilise Malay/Muslim professionals to contribute and give back to the community. Because you have so much to offer, such as giving career guidance to youths, offering networking opportunities to help young professionals, or even being a mentor and role model to the next generation. Again, the AMP is uniquely positioned to play a positive role on this front.

  1. Of course, AMP will have to consider how best to adjust and adapt to these increasingly diverse needs and coordinate its efforts with the rest of the community. So I am glad that you have come together today to seek feedback, to hear ideas from one another, and to have this conversation on how you would set your priorities for the future. 

  1. What you are doing today for the AMP and for the community is exactly what we are hoping to achieve for Singapore with the Forward Singapore exercise. It is an opportunity for all Singaporeans to come together to refresh and update our social compact, and to consider how we would like to co-create and shape our future together. We are engaging Singaporeans across all walks of life in this exercise to get ideas, suggestions, and feedback on what more we can do. 

a.  We aim to build a Singapore where there are opportunities for everyone, regardless of background, race, language, or religion; a Singapore where every citizen knows that they will not be left to fend for themselves and that we are all in this together; A Singapore where everyone can share in the nation's progress. 

b.  That is what we hope to achieve. How do we get there? We are open to ideas. We are reviewing our policies, and we are engaging everyone to see what more we can do, what new programmes we might put in place, and what things we might do differently.

  1. Crucially, this exercise is not just about what the Government can do. It is also about what all of us as Singaporeans can do together. Self-help Groups like AMP will play a key role in this effort. So I hope you will participate actively in the Forward Singapore exercise to share your views on how we can all move forward and progress together as one united people. 

  1. So to conclude. AMP has done good work over the years to help uplift the Malay/Muslim community, in partnership with other organisations and the Government. I look forward to more opportunities to strengthen this partnership in the years ahead. If we continue to work together, if we continue to stand together, I am confident that we can build a better Singapore for everyone. Thank you very much.