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11 Oct 2017 Updated 17 Jan 2020

Asia-Singapore Infrastructure Roundtable 2017

Asia's infrastructure boom to spell opportunities for Singapore

The explosive demand for infrastructure over the next few years in Asia is set to create a unique growth opportunity for Singapore-based companies.

And the Government intends to help local firms ride this wave of growth by increasing access to more competitive financing and building a strong talent pool for the sector, said Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran, at the opening of the Asia-Singapore Infrastructure Roundtable on 26 Septemer 2017. (As of 1 May 2018, Mr S. Iswaran is the Minister for Communications and Information, as well as Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations.)

This year’s roundtable focused on a few key themes, from helping Singapore-based companies ride on this huge wave of opportunity to implementing smart and sustainable solutions for urban planning.

But one thing was clear: Everyone was bullish over the outlook of infrastructure investment in Asia.

Mr Iswaran noted that Asia is projected to require US$1.7 trillion in infrastructure investments every year till 2030.

"This presents unparalleled opportunities for companies of all sizes,” he added.

The Government will help small and medium enterprises scale up through a risk sharing scheme called IFS Non-Recourse Financing scheme. More details about both schemes are expected to be provided next year.

A new Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for the sector, called Global Ready Infrastructure Talent or GRIT, will also create a steady stream of talent for the sector by equipping mid-career switches with the right skills to enter the growing industry.

Speakers on the panels also echoed their optimism for the future, noting that Southeast Asian economies such as Myanmar and Indonesia urgently require massive amounts of investments in infrastructure.

And even as countries seek foreign investments, there remains a unique opportunity to help shift this part of the world towards smart and sustainable infrastructure solutions.

With costs of technology and sustainable solutions falling, investments could help boost countries in these areas while reducing the impact on the environment, speakers noted.

Here are four key highlights from the event:

  1. Singapore can serve as Asia’s infrastructure hub and facilitate risk management in infrastructure investments
    Growing affluence and connectivity in the region is driving demand for infrastructure development. Singapore is well poised to support this demand. Our infrastructure ecosystem has matured over the years, and today, we play host to a large variety of companies – developers, financiers, multilaterals, professional services and more. All these stakeholders have a role to play in proper management and allocation of the risk. There is actually no shortage of commercial lenders to infrastructure projects if risk can be allocated and mitigated properly.

  2. Smart cities and smart technologies are emerging as solutions to urban problems
    Smart infrastructure technologies have paved new ways for cities around the world to tackle both old and new urban issues. This has increased liveability for citizens and created better ecosystems for businesses to thrive in. While such technologies have brought about many benefits, we will also have to address the increased vulnerabilities which individuals and organisations are exposed to, such as cyberattacks.

  3. Renewable energy is seen as a suitable power generation solution for distributed set-ups but financing remains a key issue
    Renewable energy is now widely deployed in countries which possess particular resources such as wind, solar, geothermal or hydro. However, the intermittent nature of many renewable energy sources means that distributed generation solutions often require hybrid systems or energy storage options to be complete. In the implementation of distributed generation solutions, strong local stakeholder engagement is even more critical than for centralised systems. The formation of long term partnerships or joint ventures is one of the ways to ensure engagement. There is also potential to bring in multilaterals to finance such projects - provided that they are well structured right from the start.

  4. Proper financing and structuring are necessary to ensure the bankability of transportation projects, particularly cross-border ones
    Governments cannot fully relinquish the responsibility of large scale transportation projects to the private sector; they still play key roles in the structuring and financing of such projects. When implementing cross border transportation, immediate considerations include the harmonisation of systems across countries, as well as currency risks (when parts of the project are financed in different currencies). Technology is also playing an increasingly critical role in enhancing the security of transportation projects.