Both public, private players have a role in challenging markets: Panel

Banyan Tree Holdings executive chairman Ho Kwon Ping (centre) moderating the plenary session of the Singapore Regional Business Forum yesterday, with the panel comprising (from left) GIC managing director Boon Chin Hau, China International Capital Co
Banyan Tree Holdings executive chairman Ho Kwon Ping (centre) moderating the plenary session of the Singapore Regional Business Forum yesterday, with the panel comprising (from left) GIC managing director Boon Chin Hau, China International Capital Corporation chief operating officer Chu Gang, European Chamber of Commerce president Federico Donato, Changi Airport Group chairman and Surbana Jurong chairman Liew Mun Leong, Overseas Private Investment Corporation's Asia-Pacific managing director Geoffrey Tan and Hodo Group chairman and chief executive officer Zhou Haijiang.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Public and private players both have a role to play in supporting infrastructure developments in countries that lack stable governance or market-friendly policies, said business and financial institution leaders.

They also weighed in on Singapore's role in Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects during the opening plenary of the Singapore Regional Business Forum yesterday, which was moderated by Banyan Tree Holdings executive chairman Ho Kwon Ping.

Mr Geoffrey Tan, Asia-Pacific managing director at Overseas Private Investment Corporation, said commitment from governments plays a crucial role in providing assurance to private investors looking at projects in challenging markets.

Many of the best projects in Asian markets and across the world are usually taken up by either the local private sector or the state itself, and it is often the "more challenging projects which are seeking private sector investment", he said.

Mr Liew Mun Leong, chairman of Changi Airport Group and of Surbana Jurong, puts the onus on private players. "We sometimes have to take an entrepreneur's view of what is investible," he said.

He added that while it is important to do the necessary checks, there has to be some confidence to look beyond the financial viability of a project when assessing its potential and take a leap of faith.

Mr Boon Chin Hau, Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC's managing director and head of infrastructure, Asia and emerging markets, responding to a question from an audience member on how Singapore could contribute to BRI projects, said Singapore is a great hub for construction firms and supporting services are well represented here.

This gives a "good base for companies to provide their services" and work with their regional counterparts to develop the region, he said.

Mr Liew Mun Leong, chairman of Changi Airport Group and Surbana Jurong, said that besides legal and financial know-how, Singapore can also draw upon its experience with showcase projects such as airports and bridges to provide technical services to the region.

Mr Liew said that besides its legal and financial know-how, Singapore can also draw upon its experience with showcase projects such as airports and bridges to provide technical services to the region.

The results of the second regional business survey on the BRI, which polled close to 50 respondents in June and July, were jointly released by the Singapore Business Federation and audit firm PwC at the forum.

The survey found that 43 per cent of respondents, consisting of representatives from multinational organisations, professional services firms and financial institutions, saw smart cities and urban development as the top sector for BRI-related opportunities.

Choo Yun Ting

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2019, with the headline 'Both public, private players have a role in challenging markets: Panel'. Print Edition | Subscribe