Tuesday 10 March 2015

Share resources and abilities for a harmonious society, urges ESM Goh

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong was speaking on Sunday (Mar 8) as 24 youth leaders completed the NextGen Leadership Programme to learn how to carry out community service more effectively.
By Alice Chia, Channel NewsAsia, 8 Mar 2015

The strong should share their resources and abilities for a harmonious society, otherwise, problems caused by income inequality will surface, said Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong as he urged youths to help the needy.

Mr Goh was speaking on Sunday (Mar 8) as 24 youth leaders completed the NextGen Leadership Programme to learn how to carry out community service more effectively. The programme was launched six years ago by Mr Goh when he was the Senior Minister.

At Sunday's event, Mr Goh shared the motivation behind the programme. He looked back on how his father died when he was in Primary Four, and that he was brought up in an extended family. He received bursaries in his schooling days, which helped with expenses.

"I cycled to school so I didn't have to pay for bus fare - about 10km one way, so 20km every day for some years," he said. "And in those days, we didn't have to wear long pants. So I wore short pants, and my mother used to make my short pants very long, up to the knee level.

"So I complained to her. I said, 'Why do you make such ugly, long, short pants for me?' And her reply was, 'You are growing so fast, so I have got to make a pair of shorts for you that can last two years.' Those were the days when you lived within the budget that you had."

Mr Goh likened the Government to the head of an extended family, who gathers all the resources in the country and uses them to benefit everyone.

Citing the recent Budget, he said more is given to those in the lower-income group. Those in the middle-income bracket also got some help, with the funds coming from the top 20 per cent of earners.

Said Mr Goh: "Where will the funds come from? It comes from those at the top 20 per cent. For those at the top 20 per cent, for every dollar that they pay in tax, they get less than a dollar back in benefits.

"You think that's a bad deal for them, but in fact that's not a bad deal. In a society, unless the strong and the able share resources and their ability with the others, we will not have a harmonious society. Problems in income inequality will surface. By sharing, the better-off ones enjoy the benefit of living in a harmonious, peaceful, secure society."

Mr Goh urged the youth leaders to help others succeed too.

The training under the NextGen Leadership Programme 2015 was done over nine months and included making friends with the elderly and helping them clean their homes.

Participants aged 19 to 35 were equipped with interpersonal and leadership skills through camps, training sessions and attachments to divisions in Marine Parade GRC and Mountbatten SMC.

This helped them better understand local ground issues to co-create and implement projects that meet community needs. It also allowed the youths, including students and working professionals, to establish partnerships with grassroots leaders and community partners. 

The programme aims to nurture youths into community leaders. So far 129 youth community leaders have been trained.

The qualifying age for the latest cohort was raised to between 19 and 35, from the previous age bracket of 16 to 25.

Said Marine Parade Leadership Foundation Chairman Seah Kian Peng: "The board did a review and we felt that we wanted to enlarge the age group. Basically we felt that it was also good to include more people in the programme. With it, I think you add more diversity, you get a richness in experience, and as a group, I think everyone benefits."

Participants said they drew from each other's strengths.

"I learnt more about how to become more confident and expand my skills, expand my own knowledge and own skills and so that I can be a better person," said 19-year-old Wan Nurhidayah, a student at the Republic Polytechnic.

Leonard Ho, a self-employed 29-year-old, said: "I see passion in them so it helped to make me drive on, motivate myself, to continue, and of course we exchange pointers. For example, I'll share my working experience with them."

Subsequently, the young leaders will be working on a project to showcase the culture and heritage of residents in the Marine Parade and Mountbatten area. They also hope to maintain the relationships they've built with grassroots leaders and community partners, so they can continue to develop and implement projects that will benefit the community.

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