Firms see BRI potential across many sectors: Poll

Development of smart cities, roads and ports and economic zones among opportunities

Multinational organisations, firms and financial institutions see developing smart cities, industrial estates and special economic zones as opportunities in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Other areas with potential include infrastructure projects in information and communications technology, roads and ports, and both renewable and non-renewable energy initiatives, with solar and wind projects standing out for renewables.

These were the key findings of a second regional survey on the BRI conducted by the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) and accounting firm PwC Singapore between mid-June and July 5 this year.

The initial findings were shared at a media conference yesterday. The full report will be released on Aug 15 at the Singapore Regional Business Forum, which will be held at The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore.

In the survey, close to 50 respondents were quizzed online about their interest, level of involvement and plans with regard to BRI-related opportunities.

The respondents were from financial services (26 per cent), professional services (17 per cent), and construction and materials (8 per cent), among other sectors.

Some 32 per cent said they were currently involved in a BRI-related project, while 45 per cent indicated that they will be involved in the next three years.

About half are from organisations headquartered in Singapore, said PwC partner Jennifer Tay, who specialises in capital projects and infrastructure.

Political risk was the top risk associated with BRI projects, about 75 per cent of the respondents said.

Ms Tay noted that many infrastructure projects have been halted or postponed due to recent political movements in the region.

SBF chairman Teo Siong Seng said: "In the current environment... as the national apex chamber, we want to highlight that while we are pleased that the (Singapore) Government is standing by to assist (businesses), it is important that we look out for opportunities that can help our businesses."

Around 75 per cent of the respondents said they see opportunities in partnering BRI country governments in Asean and South Asia.

"The cross-border nature of the BRI makes it a significant catalyst in regional infrastructure development and is likely to bring together investors across regions to jointly develop much-needed infrastructure projects, especially for underserved communities," Ms Tay said.

Last year, Singapore was the largest foreign investment destination for China in the BRI, capturing close to 23 per cent of the total investment outflow from China to Belt and Road countries.

Singapore and China have collaborated in third-party markets in sectors such as infrastructure, financing and professional services.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2019, with the headline 'Firms see BRI potential across many sectors: Poll'. Print Edition | Subscribe