“In 10 to 20 years time, the community will have a large middle class and if can imagine a relatively well educated, fully employed and successful one, I believe we would have reached our goal of being a community of excellence. Today, if we succeed in guiding and nurturing our youths properly, this stratum of our community will provide a strong backbone as a whole to the community and secure the future of another generation to come.” – Mr. Sani Hamid
RIMA: When you look at the Malay/Muslim Community, are you encouraged by what you see from an economic perspective?
SH: When I look into the future, I feel very encouraged. The most striking aspect of our community is its demographics. I am very encouraged by the fact that we have a huge youth base. I do not think it is an exaggeration to say, that this demographic phenomenon is the community’s best opportunity to economically remake itself. In 10 to 20 years time, the community will have a large middle class and if can imagine a relatively well educated, fully employed and successful one, I believe we would have reached our goal of being a community of excellence. Today, if we succeed in guiding and nurturing our youths properly, this stratum of our community will provide a strong backbone as a whole to the community and secure the future of another generation to come.
I have always believed that it takes the sacrifice of one generation to secure the next two generations. Many of my peers, including myself, come from low income families. Our fathers were policemen, taxi drivers and even vegetable sellers. But because our parents sacrificed and ensured that we had the opportunity to go as far as we could academically, not only do we have a better life but also our children. We were the pivotal point for our families in this instance. For our community, I believe our youths today are that pivotal point.
However, this opportunity also presents itself as the community’s greatest threat. If we fail to harness the full potential of our youths, it will not only be a missed opportunity but we will find ourselves in a weakened and vulnerable situation. Therefore, if there has been a time in our community’s history to rise and secure our future, I believe it is now. Everyone has a vital part to play, especially parents.
RIMA: In your view, what do we need to do to ensure that our youths become an asset and not a liability in the future?
SH: There are many vital aspects to ensure that this becomes a reality. The three main ones are, firstly, to provide our youth the right environment at home where they can concentrate on their studies, secondly to provide career guidance so that they pick good careers and thirdly, to ensure they become good Muslims.
On the first point, we first must understand that the average size of a Malay/Muslim family is quite large; about 3 to 4 children in each household. This in itself places a lot of strain on the finances, the amount of time the parents have with each child and the ability of the children to focus on their studies. In my area of expertise, I work with low to middle income families with respect to their finances and many are under severe financial strain. In short, our youths already face a huge challenge coping with their studies and this is compounded by the volatile situation at home as many families are under financial stress.
On the second point, our youths need to be channeled into key areas of the economy as we are under-represented in critical areas. For example, in banking & finance, there is still a dearth of Malay/Muslim talent. This is a sector which has seen tremendous growth over the past decade. If the community’s workforce is not plugged into such sectors, by having an adequate representation, how are we able to share in the growth and wealth of the nation as Singapore progresses?
Lastly, on the point of being a good Muslim, it would be a sad day if we achieve our goal of being a community of excellence, but without concurrently achieving religious excellence in the process. I hear of Malay/Muslim individuals saying that to be successful, one has to be more individualistic and worry less about the community as the latter serves only as a drag to those wanting to be successful. I believe our economic success cannot be at the expense of core values which Islam teaches us.
Mr. Sani Hamid currently holds the position of Director (Economy and Market Strategy) in Financial Alliance. He is also a member of RIMA’s Board of Directors