AIIB chief: Bank focused on helping Asia develop

Mr Jin Luqin, president-designate of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, speaking at The Singapore Summit at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre on Sept 19, 2015.
Mr Jin Luqin, president-designate of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, speaking at The Singapore Summit at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre on Sept 19, 2015. PHOTO: THE SINGAPORE SUMMIT

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is not looking to challenge the established global financial order but is instead focused on helping Asia develop, said the bank's chief yesterday.

The bank remains open to the United States as a joining member but added that it has to move ahead quickly to get projects off the ground, said its president-designate, Mr Jin Liqun.

Speaking at the last day of the Singapore Summit at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre, the former vice-finance minister of China said: "It has never been about challenging existing institutions.

"The world stage is spacious enough to allow many actors to perform."

Many critics of the bank have expressed concerns that China intends to use the AIIB as a means to extend its influence on the world stage. In particular, AIIB is seen as competition to the United States-led International Monetary Fund and the Japan-backed Asian Development Bank.

But Mr Jin said that the institution seeks to help boost and partner Asia as it grows and requires the investment for large-scale infrastructure projects.

The US$100 billion (S$140 billion) AIIB has gained the commitment of 57 countries as potential founding members, including Singapore, India, Britain, France, South Korea, Australia and Iran.

Mr Jin noted that the AIIB has been given "a fresh slate to design a new platform for the new century", just as other financial institutions were "designed to meet different needs in different times against different historical backgrounds".

"It will be a good and reliable fund, not a competitor," he said.

Outlining the bank's plans, Mr Jin said that the AIIB's first batch of projects will likely involve power plants. He added he is willing to push for certain projects in low-development countries even if they may come with high risks or losses.

"Being in the commercial-activist space, if you want to do something in this world, there are bound to be losses.

"But overall, the bank must be profitable," he said.

During the dialogue, Mr Jin also said that the AIIB remains open to the US, should it want to become a member. "China is remarkable for its patience," he quipped, drawing laughs from across the hall.

The US and Japan have declined to join the AIIB, raising concerns about its transparency and governance.

"But patience does not mean procrastination," he added, noting at the same time that more than 20 countries are waiting to join the bank as members.

"It means allowing people to have a thorough review of your ideas... whereas we should be moving fast (to get projects off the ground). We can do them in parallel."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 20, 2015, with the headline 'AIIB chief: Bank focused on helping Asia develop'. Print Edition | Subscribe