Extracted from Today...

Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong has been quoted as saying of people in less-developed countries: "Because they don't know what life is, they're quite happy. They wake up, they brush their teeth, then they'll farm, and then they'll sleep. But do you want it that way?". What concerns me is the assumption that all farmers in less-developed countries do not understand what life is.

I have worked with farmers in Vietnam who have grown up in marginalised indigenous communities. They are able to read and write in English and think more critically than many Singaporeans I have met. They are able to use the Internet and even have Facebook. They humble me with their know-how and adaptability in farming - a skill that has been long-lost in my generation.

Farmers like them help to supply our country's people with 90 per cent of our food. These are the unsung and financially unrewarded people who have contributed to the success of Singapore today. They are also the people whom millions will rely on to be highly adaptive and resilient in light of changing environmental conditions brought about by climate change.

I am 22 years of age and do not claim to have a comprehensive understanding of what life is. But I do know that happiness, which is not based on disregard for others, is central to what I would want my country to have.