Tuesday 13 January 2015

Singapore in talks with India to help build new cities

Iswaran, Modi also reaffirm ties, discuss India's smart cities drive
By Nirmala Ganapathy, India Correspondent In Ahmedabad (Gujarat), The Straits Times, 12 Jan 2015

SINGAPORE is in talks with India to help build new cities and explore "opportunities" to create new townships as well as industrial and IT parks in Asia's third-largest economy, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office S. Iswaran told a business summit in the western state of Gujarat.

"Singapore government agencies and our private sector can make useful contributions in this sector having gained deep expertise in driving our own development over the past five decades," Mr Iswaran, who is also Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry, said at yesterday's opening of the biennial Vibrant Gujarat Summit. "We are working with Andhra Pradesh with masterplanning and development of its new capital city and exploring opportunities in other states and cities in sectors such as township development, industrial and IT parks as well as utilities such as power and water."

He also said Singapore would continue to work with the government and business community of India to deepen ties and collaborations with South-east Asia.

The summit, aimed at attracting foreign investment into Gujarat and India, was opened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and attracted top Indian business honchos such as India's richest man Mukesh Ambani, international luminaries like United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry, and participants from 100 countries.

After arriving here on Saturday Mr Iswaran called on Mr Modi. They discussed the government's 100 smart cities initiative that includes a plan to create new cities and upgrade infrastructure in existing cities.

Both sides also "reaffirmed longstanding bilateral ties", said a statement release from the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

The Vibrant Gujarat summit has gained prominence, thanks to Mr Modi, who was chief minister of Gujarat for nearly 13 years and is credited with transforming it into an economic powerhouse.

Yesterday, Mr Modi assured potential investors he would undertake "unlimited" reforms to revive India's flagging economy.

"We are planning to take a quantum leap. It is not limited to one sector or region, it is truly unlimited," he said.

On the back of these pledges, there are high expectations.

"I see Gujarat as part of what Prime Minister Modi is trying to do for the rest of India," said Mr Tony Soh, chief corporate officer of The Ascott, a Singapore serviced residence company with investments of US$250 million (S$333 million) in India.

"In terms of what is possible, going from one state to the whole country, it is a different scale but I think there is a certain level of optimism," he said. "If the Modi government gets things going, we are very confident we will grow very quickly in India in the next three to five years."

Other Singapore companies such as Chase Resource Management, an energy firm, are also looking to enter the Indian market. The 70-strong business delegation that travelled with Mr Iswaran to the summit is the biggest in recent years, said IE Singapore.

Said Mr Tan Soon Kim, assistant chief executive at IE Singapore: "There are challenges in terms of issues like bureaucracy, interpretation and implementation of regulations, land and labour issues (in India). These are teething problems.

"But there is a sense of anticipation. India is back on the radar of companies."

S'pore delegates in Gujarat 'to further interest'
By Jacqueline Woo, The Straits Times, 12 Jan 2015

SOME 70 delegates from 40 Singapore companies are in the Indian state of Gujarat to “further business interests in India’s second fastest growing state”, said trade agency IE Singapore.

The delegation is led by Mr S. Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, and includes representatives from firms across sectors such as urban solutions, construction, logistics, energy and information technology. The firms include Hyflux, Meinhardt, Jurong Consultants and Sats.

This follows the partnership forged last month between Singapore and the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh to plan and develop its new capital city.

"Fundamentals that make Gujarat a viable destination for businesses are its strategic location on the west coast of India, and excellent connectivity and power infrastructure," said IE Singapore assistant chief executive Tan Soon Kim, who is on the trip.

"A window of opportunity exists at this moment for Singapore companies to move in early to establish first-mover advantage and deepen business linkages."

Singapore's Tong Garden also announced the set-up of its agri-processing unit for packaged foods and snacks in Gujarat's Sanand city. The manufacturing facility will be its first in India.

"India is set to be one of the world's fastest growing consumer markets," noted Tong Garden managing director James Ong, adding the company was pleased to set up in Gujarat because of its access to raw materials and relative ease of doing business.

Tong Garden joins other Singapore firms with a presence in Gujarat, such Adani Wilmar - a joint venture between Wilmar Holdings and Adani Group - which has an edible oils refinery in Mundra. There is also a Hitachi-Hyflux seawater desalination plant in Dahej.

IE Singapore and the Singapore Business Federation have organised a five-day business mission ending tomorrow, to introduce firms to developments in Gujarat aimed at drawing foreign investments. They include the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City and Sabarmati Riverfront project.

Gujarat's gross domestic product grew at a compound annual rate of 16.1 per cent over the past decade. It contributes about 17 per cent of total industrial production and 25 per cent of the export of goods in India.

2 S'pore firms to shape Indian state's capital city
Andhra Pradesh project aims to establish S'pore brand
By Nirmala Ganapathy India Correspondent In Hyderabad, The Straits Times, 13 Jan 2015

SINGAPORE companies Surbana International Consultants and Jurong International will create the masterplan for the new capital city of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, a project that is expected to "establish the Singapore brand in India".

Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry S. Iswaran and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu announced at a joint press conference yesterday that the two companies would work jointly to give shape to the city, which will be 10 times the size of Singapore.

"Today, it is one more milestone. The detailed action plan will be complete in June," said Mr Naidu.

Mr Iswaran noted that the two companies would bring "market knowledge and professional capabilities" to a project that would raise Singapore's profile in India.

At an interaction with Singapore media earlier, he said that this was a path-breaking project as previous ventures in India have involved IT or industrial parks.

"This gives us an opportunity to come in and establish ourselves in terms of credentials… and capabilities. When you establish Singapore brand in general, that has clear advantage for our companies."

The new capital city is coming up along the river Krishna in the Guntur Vijaywada region of the southern state.

While a large part of the area is currently agricultural land, the plan is to build a modern state capital combining green spaces with high-rise buildings to accommodate a population of 1.25 million people.

So far, 10 per cent of the land required for the capital city has been acquired, said Andhra government officials.

The state of Andhra Pradesh is embarking on building a new capital city after it lost its current capital Hyderabad, an IT hub which is home to companies such as Google and Microsoft, to the newly created state of Telangana.

The new state was carved out of Andhra Pradesh by the federal government last year and a decision was taken that Hyderabad would be shared by the two states for 10 years, during which Andhra Pradesh would create its own capital city.

Mr Pang Yee Ean, chief executive officer of Surbana, called the project "a once-in-a-lifetime project to develop a capital from scratch".

Dr Uma Maheshwaran, chief executive officer of Jurong Consultants (India), called it a "special project".

For the capital city project, the two companies are developing the masterplan in three stages, including a masterplan for 7,325 sq km of a state capital region.

In the first stage, a land use masterplan will be produced, marking commercial, residential, transport and other infrastructure facilities.

In the second, the two companies will propose a Capital City Masterplan, which will go into greater details for an area spanning more than 220 sq km.

And in the third, they will develop the core of the capital, which will be a little bigger than an HDB town, said Mr Khoo Teng Chye, executive director of the Centre for Liveable Cities, which is going to train 20 officials of the Andhra Pradesh government in areas of urban planning from Jan 19 to 24.

While Singapore is crafting the masterplan, other countries such as Japan have also expressed an interest in developing the new capital.

Mr Iswaran was accompanied by a 25-member business delegation of Singapore firms from the urban solutions, infocomm technology and construction sectors.

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