Role for private sector in infrastructure

Private sector players here can play a key role in getting infrastructure projects in the region up and running by addressing financing needs, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said last night.

Mr Heng told the Global Infrastructure Initiative Summit that the amount of infrastructure investment in Asia is expected to increase greatly amid booming demand.

"The trouble is that we need more projects that are more bankable and how we do that is (going to be) very critical," he said.

Mr Heng noted that multilateral development banks, for instance, can help catalyse investments from the private sector by taking on some of the risks associated with infrastructure projects. "We need to find creative ways of financing, de-risking, so that different players can play different roles."

Mr Heng said that China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative, a massive project to build a modern-day Silk Road through Asia to Europe, is an important step forward for the development of infrastructure and trade ties in the region.

This is especially important at a time when support for trade, connectivity and economic integration seems to be fading in certain parts of the world, he said, adding that Singapore, for its part, can play a key role by sharing its expertise on infrastructure projects.

Global infrastructure spending totalled US$9.5 trillion (S$13.2 trillion) or 14 per cent of the world's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015, according to updated findings by McKinsey & Company.

It noted that the world needs to invest US$3.7 trillion in economic infrastructure annually through 2035 to keep pace with projected growth. While many large economies have increased their investment over the past two years, a global infrastructure gap of US$5.5 trillion persists.

McKinsey said in a report that the efficiency and effectiveness of investment remain critical. Institutional investors and banks, for example, have US$120 trillion in assets that could partially support infrastructure projects.

Organised by McKinsey, the 4th Global Infrastructure Initiative Summit, which is held every 18 months, aims to brings chief executive- and ministerial-level leaders together to explore new solutions in the sector.

More than 200 participants from over 35 countries are expected to attend the three-day event at Capella Singapore, which ends tomorrow.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2017, with the headline 'Role for private sector in infrastructure'. Print Edition | Subscribe