Opening ceremony – opening minds

1 Jul 2011                      

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance and Manpower Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam launches the Singapore International Water Week 2011, courtesy of Singapore International Water Week.

I didn’t truly appreciate the reach and diversity of the Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) until I attended its opening ceremony.

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I was going to get some water, ninja style, when I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw and heard.
As I weaved surreptitiously through the crowd, I heard so many languages – even overheard a conversation in an African dialect – and saw representatives from numerous multi-national companies and of myriad industries, among them engineers, diplomats, scientists, marketers and academics.

It’s amazing to see such diversity and inclusivity in what’s normally (and incorrectly, as I now believe) perceived by the public as a technical event that’s dry, dull and uninteresting.

At the start of the ceremony, the audience was led into applause for the 550 youth volunteers supporting the event. Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources then took the stage and shared that last year’s event was “attended by more than 14,000 delegates from about 110 countries and regions, with S$2.8 billion of deals concluded”. He also shared that the number of urbanites expected to face constant water shortages is expected to balloon to 1 billion by 2050, compared with 150 million today, thus setting the tone for the critical need to attract talent capable of surmounting the challenges faced by the water industry.

To support this need for talent and research, the guest of honour, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance and Manpower Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, revealed that the National Research Foundation would promote research and development in the water industry by raising the budget to $470 million with the aim of growing the “value-added contribution from this sector from $0.5 billion in 2003 to $1.7 billion by 2015, and doubling jobs in the sector to 11,000”.

The take-home message from the evening was: Investments made and opportunities created so strike while the iron’s hot.

The ceremony concluded with the Nanyang Girls’ High School choir’s angelic rendition of Nightingale. I left the ceremony feeling inspired that while there is so much to do to get to address global water issues, much is already being done, a prime example being the Singapore International Water Week and its vision of bringing together the brightest minds of the water industry from all over the world.

By Sujith Kumar

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