The three Countries topped a survey of nearly 50 Senior Figures across various Industries. Infrastructure projects being eyed by regional companies include smart cities, industrial estates and roads.
Regional companies who want to get involved in the Belt & Road Initiative, China’s ambitious plan to boost trade and connectivity, have ranked Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia as the top three Asian countries with the most opportunities, according to a new survey.
The infrastructure projects they are eyeing include smart cities, industrial estates and roads, according to the Singapore Business Federation and professional services firm PwC, which canvassed close to 50 senior executives across various industries, most of whom were based in Singapore.
Details of the study were announced at the start of a two day infrastructure summit in the city state, which is positioning itself as a broker for much needed infrastructure projects across Southeast Asia.
The Asian Development Bank has estimated that Southeast Asia’s economies will need US$210 billion a year in infrastructure investment from 2016 to 2030, to ensure they continue growing.
Latest available data from Fitch Solutions showed Japan had outspent China in infrastructure projects in the six largest economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) by US$367 billion compared to US$255 billion.
But Beijing has been keen to spend on railways and roads under the multibillion-dollar belt and road plan that was launched in 2013 and now has projects in more than 125 countries. Its signature projects in ASEAN include railways in Laos, Indonesia and Malaysia.
But the Belt & Road has also been criticised as a tool for China to legitimise its geopolitical ambitions, with countries receiving its funds for infrastructure finding themselves in a “debt trap”.
President Xi Jinping, in addressing world leaders at the Second Belt & Road Forum in Beijing in April, pledged that the initiative would benefit “all of its participants” not just China and that greater attention would be paid to sustainability issues.
It was a point raised by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank President, Jin Liqun, who gave a keynote address, stressing the need for a greener approach in infrastructure projects.
Singapore could benefit from China’s focus on sustainable financing and green growth for the belt and road, business leaders at the forum said.
Ho Kwon Ping, Executive Chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings, said Singapore could bring its expertise in “smart nation” technologies to bear on infrastructure development.
“We are not only able to offer a lot of services to developing countries, but also to cities of the future,” he said.
Boon Chin Hau, Managing Director of Singapore’s Sovereign Wealth Fund GIC, said Singapore could market itself as a base for world-class construction companies that would work with counterparts across the region.
Liew Mun Leong, Chairman of Changi Airport Group and government infrastructure consultancy Surbana Jurong, said the city state had many “showcase projects” from airports to bridges that counted as “intellectual property” it could export.
China’s Ambassador to Singapore, Hong Xiaoyong, during his speech, said 80 per cent of inbound investment into China from countries along belt and road routes came via Singapore.
Hong went off-script at one point to comment on the political crisis gripping Hong Kong, where anti-government protests are heading into their 11th week and hitting the economy hard. Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po on Thursday revised down his previous growth forecast and left open the prospect of a technical recession.
Hong said the protesters’ actions were “against the rule of law” and that they posed a threat to people’s lives.
“It has reached an abnormal level … In any country, it would be unacceptable and should not be tolerated … It should be condemned,” he said in Mandarin.
“We believe that under Carrie Lam’s administration, law and order in Hong Kong will be restored. The Chinese government will firmly support her and has confidence in the ‘one country, two system’ principle.”
In reference to how a participant had earlier in the forum posed a question on the general impact of the protest, Hong said: “Don’t let issues in Hong Kong ruin the atmosphere of the discussions today.”