SINGAPORE - The actions of young Singaporeans over the next 50 years will determine the country's trajectory - whether it remains successful like San Jose in the Silicon Valley, or goes the way of the once-great city of Detroit which has descended into bankruptcy.
Using the two American cities to make his point, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat on Friday painted a sobering picture of how fortunes can transform dramatically due to the twin forces of globalisation and technology.
Detroit, once the centre of America's car industry, had a median household income of about US$44,000 in 1960. Last year, this had fallen by about half, to US$26,000 (S$33,000).
For San Jose, located about 3,300km away and the heart of the country's information technology industry, the corresponding figures were about US$6,900 and US$80,700.
To further illustrate how drastically fates have changed, Mr Heng noted that just a decade ago, there were countries aspiring to be like Detroit, though today that carries a very different meaning.
Throughout much of the last decade, for instance, Thailand's booming car industry had been labelled the "Detroit of the East".
"You may ask why these American developments matter to Singapore.
It matters because what drives the changing fortunes of these towns are the very changes that are driving changes around the world," Mr Heng told some 300 university undergraduates and guests on Friday at the annual Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum.