Singapore wants to be Asia’s ‘infra hub’

The Southeast Asian republic has launched an Infrastructure Centre of Excellence as it attempts to revive flagging investment in the region.

Government agency IE Singapore has joined forces with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to launch the Asia Infrastructure Centre of Excellence (AICOE), an initiative aiming to catalyse infrastructure development in Asia.

AICOE will work with governments in the region to identify their infrastructure requirements and create bankable projects with the help of private sector participation and investment.

The initiative has S$17 billion (€9.8 billion; $13.5 billion) of funding over three years committed by IE Singapore and other government agencies, the ADB and the Canada Department for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.

In conjunction with the official launch, it was also announced that Phillip Crotty had been appointed as head of AICOE. Crotty was previously an independent director at the Bank of India and principal and managing director at investment manager New Zealand Asset Management. He has experience in public-private partnership (PPP) project financing.

A statement said AICOE will support initiatives in the power generation, waste, water management and transport sectors and will work with the governments in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand to discuss greenfield and brownfield projects. It will also share experiences of PPPs and policy-making within the region.

The same statement said that there is potential for Singapore to play the role of “the region’s infrastructure hub, where project development, financing and execution can take place”.

“Singapore is well positioned to drive infrastructure developments in Asia due to three key areas,” said Kow Juan Tiang, group director for environment and infrastructure services at IE Singapore, in a statement. “One, we have strong engineering capabilities; two, we are a financial hub with wide-ranging financing tools; and three, we have a robust legal framework. These elements are essential for infrastructure projects and we have the ability to integrate them.”

The statement noted that the number and value of infrastructure projects in Asia has “flatlined”, further widening an existing multi-billion-dollar infrastructure financing gap. At the peak of activity in 2008, $141.3 billion of infrastructure projects were underway. Over the five subsequent years, the average was $98.6 billion.

In addition to AICOE, Singapore has also launched an Infrastructure Development Programme in association with the National University of Singapore to “equip students with the capabilities and knowledge about structuring and financing complex infrastructure projects”.

The programme offers 24 internships with nine infrastructure companies including developers, consultancies, funds and banks over a nine-week period.