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Opening Remarks by Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Finance and Education, at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Roundtable on 17 October 2019, 12.00PM (US Time) in Washington, DC

18 Oct 2019

1. Good afternoon everyone.

2. Before I deliver a few remarks to kick off the discussion, allow me to thank the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace for graciously supporting this roundtable session and to all of you for taking the time to participate in this session. 

3. Let me first start by providing an overview of infrastructure demand in Southeast Asia. 

a. Infrastructure development continues to be a key driver of economic growth and an enabler of shared prosperity. 

b. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) expects that Asia will need to invest about US$1.7 trillion a year up to 2030 in order to meet the infrastructure needs of the region. 

4. Given the significant infrastructure costs, few single governments will have all the resources to meet these needs alone. 

a. Financing from governments, multilateral development banks, and private capital all play an important part in sustaining infrastructure development initiatives. 

5. To this end, Singapore welcomes partnerships with all stakeholders, including the US, on projects within our region. 

a. American companies bring much needed expertise, resources, and capabilities to the region. 

i. For example, Black & Veatch, a name you would be familiar with, is well established in Singapore. They have been doing good work with our national water agency for many years. It also has a strong renewables business in Asia, with a focus on solar, wind, and energy storage. 

ii. Another example is that of I Squared Capital, a private equity firm focused on global infrastructure investments. It has a Singapore-based joint venture with the International Finance Corporation that invests in roads and highway projects. It owns and operates more than 1,700 lane-km of highways in India, across a diverse portfolio of toll and annuity-based roads. 

b. We are also encouraged by the aim to set-up the US International Development Finance Corporation. We hope that it will step up its engagements with countries in the Asian region and broker more infrastructure deals that will contribute to shared prosperity. 

6. Singapore has been positioning itself as an infrastructure hub because many stakeholders are present in Singapore. Infrastructure Asia (IA) had signed an MOU with the World Bank Group (WBG). Under the MOU, IA and WBG will jointly facilitate capacity building and knowledge exchange in Asian countries on project structuring, financing, implementation, and operations. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has also announced that it would be setting up a new office in Singapore to expand private sector operations.

7. Singapore can be a valuable partner for the US. At the business-to-business level, we have a vibrant ecosystem of infrastructure stakeholders – from developers and lawyers to financiers that US companies can work with. 

a. At present, about 60% of project finance transactions in ASEAN are arranged by Singapore-based banks. 

b. We also have a vast range of professional expertise, including in dispute resolution. For example, Singapore recently introduced the Singapore Infrastructure Dispute-Management Protocol, or the SIDP. It seeks to establish a panel of professional experts who provide advice to resolve infrastructure disputes at an early stage without parties having to go through lengthy arbitration or litigation processes. 

c. We also recently launched the International Convention on Mediation in Singapore. It is effectively the mediation equivalent of the New York Convention on Arbitration. This is useful, particularly in the Asian context, in resolving infrastructure disputes in a less acrimonious manner. 

8. At the Government-to-Government level, Singapore has also played a strong supporting role. 

a. For instance, Singapore launched the ASEAN Smart Cities Network in 2018. It encourages ASEAN Member States to work towards the common goal of smart and sustainable urban development, with the use of technology as an enabler to improve people’s lives. 

b. I have signed a Framework agreement with Deputy Secretary Justin Muzinich to strengthen bilateral infrastructure cooperation. The Framework aims to facilitate technical exchanges and information sharing to support and catalyse infrastructure investments. Its implementation will expand bilateral economic cooperation, support the development of Southeast Asia’s infrastructure sector, and promote private sector investment in infrastructure. 

9. We had also set up the Infrastructure Asia last year as a focal point for our infrastructure efforts. 

a. Infrastructure Asia aims to connect and integrate partners across the infrastructure value chain and catalyse collaboration. This includes connecting the demand and supply of infrastructure projects; working with Governments and other key partners around the region; and linking them up with potential investors and service providers. 

b. Infrastructure Asia also acts as a bridge for different industry players across the infrastructure ecosystem, MDBs, and the public sector. You will learn more about the organisation and some of the projects that it is working on in its presentation later. 

10. We are also exploring innovative capital market solutions to catalyse private sector financing for infrastructure development. 

a. To this end, we had supported the establishment of Clifford Capital, a specialist provider of structured finance solutions. Clifford has designed and structured an Infrastructure Take-Out Facility to recycle capital and crowd-in institutional capital for infrastructure debt in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. 

11. Ultimately, the region welcomes investments from all interested parties. We especially welcome innovative ways of mobilising private investments in much-needed infrastructure projects. 

12. We firmly believe that regional countries will benefit from the expertise and capabilities that US investments will bring, and we look forward to exchanging views on the areas in which we could deepen our cooperation with the US to facilitate this.