Friday 17 May 2013

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Official Opening of Marina Bay Financial Centre

MBFC development helps to keep Singapore competitive
Channel NewsAsia, 15 May 2013

The development of the Marina Bay Financial Centre (MBFC) and a new financial district downtown has helped to keep Singapore competitive.

Speaking at the grand opening of Singapore's MBFC on Wednesday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the high-quality business environment has strengthened Singapore's position as a global financial hub.

Built at a total cost of S$4 billion, the MBFC was the result of a vision conceived over 10 years ago, the vision of developing a world-class business and financial centre to make sure Singapore stays relevant to the needs of a fast-growing financial sector.

Prime Minister Lee said: "We studied many hubs overseas - Canary Wharf, of course; Hong Kong's International Financial Centre; Shanghai's Pudong (which was) then just taking off. We identified the features we needed.

"Eventually after much discussion and debate of how it should be done, whether it should be done, we decided in 2003 to carve out a large land parcel on Marina South for a business and financial hub."

Mr Lee said it was a bold move that paid off as the global economy rebounded.

MBFC comprises three office towers, offering about three million square feet of office space - double of what's at Raffles Place.

There are also nearly 650 luxury apartments and a retail mall at MBFC.

The MBFC, a key landmark in Singapore's new downtown, is home to over 20,000 workers and many established companies in the legal services, commodities and financial services sectors, including anchor tenants like DBS Bank and Standard Chartered Bank.

Standard Chartered Bank Singapore CEO Ray Ferguson said: "We have the largest dealing room in Asia in our facility here at Marina Bay. So, obviously Singapore...a key financial centre, not just in Asia but in the world now. What we have got at Marina Bay, what we have been able to build really helps support that positioning."

Mr Lee said Singapore's open economy, deep pool of talent and robust regulatory regime have also contributed to the success of its financial industry.

The banking and services sector accounts for 12 per cent of Singapore's GDP.

And Mr Lee said it is expected to grow by 3 per cent this year.

He added that Singapore's financial industry is at an important juncture as the country transitions to a new phase of development.

And a vibrant financial sector will continue to benefit the Singapore economy by generating better jobs and spurring growth in other sectors like the legal services, industry development and social enterprises.

"Therefore, we must continue to attract high-quality investments to create better jobs for Singaporeans," said Mr Lee.

He also said there is a need to develop a strong Singapore core of specialists and leaders in finance - a move the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is currently facilitating by working with financial institutions.

Government to boost pool of local finance experts
Move is among measures to expand robust financial sector
By Elgin Toh, The Straits Times, 16 May 2013

SINGAPORE is working to build a strong local core in the financial industry as one of its priorities to further grow the already significant contributions of the sector.

This goal to have Singaporeans fill more specialist and leadership positions leads a to-do list Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong laid down yesterday for the industry, which accounts for nearly one-eighth of the economy.

He said the Monetary Authority of Singapore is working with banks to find ways to groom more local talent.

Other major moves Singapore is taking include seeking high-quality investments, maintaining a pro-business environment and joining efforts to reform the global financial system.

These paths to growth for the robust sector, which looks set to expand by 3 per cent this year, were set out by PM Lee at the official opening of the Marina Bay Financial Centre (MBFC).

He said: "A vibrant financial sector continues to benefit our economy and our people.

"It catalyses growth in other sectors... (and) enhances Singapore's position as a global trading and services hub."

His call to expand the local pool of finance experts resonated with top bankers like DBS chief executive Piyush Gupta.

"If you want to anchor any industry and make it sustainable, you need a local core. That is true in Wall Street, in the City of London, and in Singapore," Mr Gupta told The Straits Times.

Singaporeans holding leadership roles in multinational corporations (MNCs) are also "more likely to make extra effort to ensure jobs remain in Singapore, because of their affinity towards fellow nationals", added Mr Soon Sze-Meng, a director in an MNC in the financial industry.

Mr Lee's call comes less than a year after Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam outlined ways to achieve the goal, such as helping more locals get global experience.

Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin also said in March the Government was tackling discrimination against Singaporeans in the financial industry.

Singapore's commitment to the industry can be seen in the development of the MBFC.

Mr Lee said Marina Bay was earmarked in the 1960s as a site for an expanded Central Business District. Land was reclaimed for it. In the 1990s, with Shenton Way lagging in meeting the sector's needs, the Government studied other financial hubs, like London's Canary Wharf, and designed Marina Bay so that the buildings could, for example, house large trading floors.

"It was a bold move at the time," said Mr Lee, with land being released in a large parcel instead of the usual small parcels, and at a time shortly after the Sept 11, 2001, attacks and the 2003 Sars scare.

But it paid off. The centre boasts high take-up rates. Towers 1 and 2 are full. Tower 3, which houses DBS Bank's headquarters, is 88 per cent filled.

Standard Chartered was the first bank to move there in January 2011. Its Singapore chief executive Ray Ferguson called the area a "vibrant and dynamic place for business", saying its MBFC office is its largest globally.

Mr Warren Bishop, chief executive of Raffles Quay Asset Management, which runs MBFC, announced yesterday a $1 million donation by the company to the four local universities for study grants. This is "to nurture the next generation of business leaders, some of whom will likely work here at MBFC in the future", he said.

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