5 things about the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

The China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is aimed at financing infrastructure development around Asia.

More than 50 countries, including Singapore, have signed up as founding members of the bank, which will be officially launched by the end of this year.

On Wednesday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo called for the reform of the global financial architecture, and the AIIB could be part of that reform.

Here's more about the Beijing-based bank:

1. Does the world need another development bank?

Yes. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates that Asia faces an infrastructure funding shortfall of US$8 trillion (S$10.7 trillion) between 2010 and 2020.

Existing institutions cannot hope to fill this gap. ADB has a capital base of just over US$160 billion and the World Bank has US$223 billion.

While the other institutions fund a diverse range of projects, the AIIB will concentrate on infrastructure.

2. How much clout will it have?

In cold hard cash, the bank is expected to have an authorised capital of US$100 billion.

Amid concerns from critics about its transparency and standards, AIIB chief Jin Liqun has promised it will be "lean, clean and green".

It is potential competition for the World Bank and ADB, led by the United States and Japan respectively.

3. Why is the United States nervous about it?

The AIIB is seen as a challenge to the World Bank and ADB, both multilateral lenders that count Washington and its allies as their biggest financial backers.

China, which is keen to extend its influence in the region, has limited voting power over these existing banks despite being the world's second-largest economy.

The AIIB will boost China's influence internationally and significantly enhance its soft power, while eroding the US' international influence through the World Bank and ADB.

4. Who's in...

Most of Asia, and major economies in Western Europe.

Australia, Indonesia and South Korea skipped the launch of the bank in October last year, but are now among the founding members.

Surprisingly, Britain joined as a founding member despite protests from the United States. France, Germany and Italy are also in.

Major Middle Eastern countries like the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have also signed up.

5. ... and who's out

The United States has resisted joining the bank and lobbied allies not to join. In Asia, Japan is conspicuously absent. It is the only major economy among minnows like Bhutan, Afghanistan and Papua New Guinea, which are not on the list.

Taiwan and North Korea reportedly applied to join, but were rejected.

chuimin@sph.com.sg

Sources: Economist, The Diplomat, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank website, Business Times