Ms Kuik Shiao-Yin, creative director and co-founder of The Thought Collective and Nominated Member of Parliament, delivered a rousing speech in Parliament during the Singapore Budget 2015 debates. She spoke on how the youth need to be invested into and how their world views are changing the Singapore we know today to be an inclusive city-state.

Below are excerpts of her speech, reproduced with permission from Ms Kuik.


I thought about what unique value I could add to the debate happening today. I figure since I am one of the youngest members of this House, I shall speak for the youth. And in some informality so they will understand.

Not many Singaporean youths are paying attention to Budget 2015. Frankly, it’s dreadfully boring stuff to them. But if I was in my classroom right now, I would say to them, “Wake up. Pay attention. This may actually be more important than your exams. Your city grows according to where the money flows. Understand the Budget to understand more about the Singapore to come and your place in it.”

I believe if the State commits itself wholeheartedly to encouraging innovation, promoting inclusivity and empowering identity, we would be on the right track to creating the kind of Singapore many of our young people would want to live in. A Singapore that balances both our material and immaterial needs.

The youth’s perception of the government

There is no value that speaks louder to this generation of youth than inclusivity. We want to live in a Singapore that includes and embraces all. Deep down we all want a Singapore that is full of grace, that perceives every person that shares this island as worthy and accords the same level of respect and dignity to the strong as well as the weak. Because if it were so, then it is a safe place for all of us to be.

We all want to feel that no matter who I am, how far I fall, this country will always have my back. That is why so many young people pay close attention to how the state talks to and treats its weakest and is so critical of any sign of inconsistency. They take it personally as a sign that someday that could be how the state will talk to and treat me.

Humility important for young Singaporeans

It’s important for us young Singaporeans to lay down our self-righteousness and admit that we all struggle with inconsistency – not just the government. We are all a work in progress in terms of living out our values. Many of us who want inclusivity also find ourselves excluding still. Some of us may speak compassionately about the poor and powerless but are filled with loathing for the rich and powerful. Some of us may fight lovingly for animals, but talk hatefully about new migrants. If we are honest, we should admit that we are all inconsistent.

But if we are mature, we would also in the same breath say we are not satisfied with being inconsistent, we will always try to stay open to changing how we view the Other and creating a place to welcome them.

Inclusivity begins in humility.

The young are looking towards us adults in leadership to model what that looks and sounds like. I hope all of us – the people and the state – will be honest, mature and humble enough to keep an open conversation going as we dialogue together about how to develop compassionate policies that include everyone: the rich and poor, the young and the old, the strong and the weak, the native and the foreigner, the PAP and the opposition, the ones who got their act together and the ones who screw up. We are all worthy of being heard and helped.

Government must support cultural intangibles

I will talk more in the COS (Commitee of Supply) debates about how we should invest in the creation of our local cultural goods and in particular, protect our hawker cultural heritage. Local music, fashion, graphic design, hawker food, film, brands, memories. These are not petty things to invest in.

If we leave the fate of our local culture purely to market forces, we are in grave danger of losing the small stuff that binds, that anchor us to this country when everything in the world beckons us to leave. Singapore needs to invest in her own story and support her story-makers and story-tellers: the writers, the artistes, the creatives, the film-makers, the historians, the entrepreneurs, the musicians, the chefs.

A Budget debate by nature focuses on how to ensure everybody in our country is able to have money, make money and access their money. And rightfully so, for money lets us do lots of very good things.

But any discussion about money that leaves out meaning has no currency.

The thing about money is that we will never feel we have enough of it – not unless we become clear about the meaning we wanted all that money to create for us in the first place. We cannot be so relentless in our pursuit of tangible success that we sacrifice all the intangible things that we really cared about most. As we find our significance, more of us will find our satisfaction.

Photos: We Are Singapore, Be an Idea!