Friday 17 April 2015

Infrastructure for Asia: Singapore can help

Republic's experience can be shared with other countries, says minister
By Ong Kai Xuan, The Straits Times, 16 Apr 2015

SINGAPORE could play a key role in the provision of badly needed - and vastly expensive - infrastructure across Asia, such as power plants, roads and ports.

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Lee Yi Shyan yesterday outlined the way the Republic could contribute to the "larger good" of getting infrastructure projects built.

He was speaking at the fourth Asia-Singapore infrastructure roundtable, part of International Enterprise (IE) Singapore's bid to lift market access and facilitate discussion about global collaboration in the field of infrastructure.

"Asia's need for infrastructure and the resulting investments are huge," said Mr Lee at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre.

About 160 participants were present, including delegates from China, Laos and Bangladesh.

"Economic and social development cannot take place unless they are supported by enabling infrastructure," he added.

"Singapore is willing to contribute to this larger good," said Mr Lee.

The Republic's experience in overcoming "a small geographical footprint" and lack of water could be shared with other countries.

Mr Kow Juan Tiang, group director of environment and infrastructure solutions group in IE Singapore, told The Straits Times that "we do have a good model, but we cannot expect this model to be exported wholesale to any country".

"We can share only some of our experiences, principles and thoughts. Other countries may be able to draw certain lessons from it and change their perspectives to suit their local model."

Singapore can also provide a platform for "functional expertise", said Mr Lee. This expertise is in project scoping and feasibility studies.

Singapore is "well connected to the regional markets", allowing "our neighbours to tap on the expertise here easily".

Building infrastructure requires vast sums. Mr Kow said the high costs could be a deterrent, given that building a power plant could cost $1 billion.

But Singapore aims to use its position as a financial centre to offer infrastructure financing options. These include project financing, bond financing, business trusts and infrastructure funds.

However, funding needs to be complemented by manpower, said Mr Kow.

"We recognise the need to nurture a strong pool of talent for this industry," said Mr Teo.

IE Singapore has implemented the Young Talent Programme as well as the Infrastructure Development Scholarship to reach out to young talent and train them for the infrastructure sector.

Other companies have joined in, with 17 firms offering 34 coveted infrastructure internships.

But there are still problems with international collaboration to build infrastructure. Mr Teo said that "partners could have misaligned interests which might tear the partnership apart".

That is not to say that successful partnerships are not possible. The Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City is an example of a successful international infrastructure collaboration.

A memorandum of understanding was signed with Bangladesh yesterday to address the demand for electricity in Bangladesh, presenting more opportunities for international collaboration in the infrastructure field.

Yesterday, at the 4th Asia-Singapore Infrastructure Roundtable, SMS Lee Yi Shyan shared how S'pore can make meaningful...
Posted by IE Singapore (International Enterprise Singapore) on Thursday, April 16, 2015

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