Abe offers infrastructure support for Asia-Pacific

JAPANESE Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has offered to help regional countries improve their transport and energy infrastructure, days after China proposed the creation of a bank that could invest in the region's need for better road, rail and power networks.

Mr Abe unveiled no new policy details during his speech at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) CEO Summit here on Monday

But in what appear to be a veiled dig at concerns over the safety and durability of China's infrastructure, he said: "We need highly reliable structures and facilities that take into account costs over the entirety of the lifecycle".

Chinese President Xi Jinping, on a visit to Indonesia last week, pledged Beijing's support for the creation of a bank that would invest in the region's infrastructural needs.

Chinese companies last week also inked deals for a slew of projects in Indonesia, including a US$1.5 billion (S$1.9 billion) deal with the Jakarta Monorail to finance and design part of the capital's first monorail, and to develop coal mining and infrastructure projects in Papua and Central Kalimantan worth some US$6 billion.

China also said it was keen to take part in Malaysia's plan to build high-speed rail networks.

Mr Abe, who has embarked on a major courtship of Asean countries this year, was keen not to be outdone and made an argument at the summit for what he said was Japan's superior technology.

He added: "It is of course true that 'lower is better' when discussing costs. But it is not the case that anything is acceptable so long as it is cheap.

"Bad technology driving out good...it does not fit with our Apec, which is free and dynamic. We would like good technologies to lift other technologies still higher."

Mr Abe, however, side-stepped delays surrounding an ongoing Japan-Indonesia project to build thermal power plants in Central Java.

According to the Bloomberg newswire, Japan's Electric Power Development Co, Itochu Corp and Indonesia's PT Adaro Energy pushed back the schedule for securing financing for their US$4 billion coal-fired power plant by another year to October 2014, after delays in acquiring land.

The Batang plant, which would be Indonesia's biggest independent electricity supplier, is part of Mr Abe's strategy to increase exports of technology to improve the efficiency of power from coal, Bloomberg reported.

zakirh@sph.com.sg