How Singapore and the GIF are bridging the infrastructure gap in Asia and beyond

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With support from the World Bank Group, Singapore invested heavily in infrastructure during the early stages of our growth. This included 14 World Bank loans between 1963 and 1975, which financed the development of the deep sea terminal at the Port of Singapore, the doubling of the country’s energy capacity, and the construction of water pipelines to Malaysia—all of which remain a part of our core infrastructure today.

Having benefitted from the good work of the World Bank, I strongly believe it’s important to in turn share our experience and contribute to the global infrastructure agenda through our participation in the Global Infrastructure Facility (GIF) and the recently-launched Infrastructure Asia (IA).

Enterprise Singapore and the Monetary Authority of Singapore launched IA this October to facilitate regional infrastructure collaboration. The new set-up aims to increase the number of projects that are bankable and investible. IA will serve as a bridge, connecting different industry players across the infrastructure ecosystem, multilateral development banks (MDBs) and the public sector.

Through the exchange of information and sharing of best practices, we hope to see more infrastructure projects successfully developed in the region. As co-chair of the GIF council, I’m very pleased that this organization is largely complementary to GIF’s objectives.

The GIF prides itself in bridging the global infrastructure gap by structuring viable infrastructure projects for private financing. As of October 2018, it has approved 45 projects with $41.3 million in funding. Of these, two have reached commercial close.

Collectively, these funds are expected to unlock a further $39.8 billion in total investment, of which $24.2 billion is expected to come from private sector investments. These accomplishments, achieved within a short span of three years since GIF’s establishment in 2015, demonstrate the deep technical expertise and commitment of the professionals in the management unit.

Beyond quantitative achievements, I see two key differentiating factors in the GIF, compared to other project preparation facilities. This first is its ability to aggregate the efforts of various MDBs. The GIF’s collaboration platform, which pools the expertise, knowledge, and networks among various MDBs, allows technical partners to play a fundamental role in identifying projects, executing resources, and providing guidance.

The second is the participation of the advisory partners, most of whom are from the private sector. This enables the GIF to stay in close dialogue with the private sector and engage early in project discussions—ensuring that projects developed and prepared will eventually have a positive response from the investor community. 

Having worked closely with the GIF for the past three years, I would like to share three key takeaways:
  • Collaboration is vital
Since the development of the G20 Roadmap to promote infrastructure as an asset class, a growing number of project preparation facilities are being developed by various MDBs, private, and public sectors. There is thus a need for a coordinated approach across various project preparation facilities to ensure infrastructure gaps are bridged with the right tools for the right projects. The GIF, given its neutrality, is well-positioned to strengthen and aggregate collaborative efforts to promote the optimal use of capital into projects that can achieve the desired financial and development objectives.  
  • We need innovative approaches to deploy capital more efficiently
Standardization, replicability, and aggregation are areas the GIF is actively working on. While there is a need to balance standardization and contextualization according to local market requirements to ensure proper risk allocation, we recognize that the benefits of standardization go beyond time and cost. Standardizing documents and contracts attracts increased private investments in infrastructure as it provides private investors with greater transparency and confidence in projects. 
I’m happy to have been part of the GIF’s journey and participated in its progress. What it has achieved to date is commendable and has validated Singapore’s partnership with the GIF. We look forward to our continued collaboration to effectively mobilize private sector capital for infrastructure projects, especially in Asia.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog does not necessarily reflect the views of the World Bank Group, its Board of Executive Directors, staff or the governments it represents. The World Bank Group does not guarantee the accuracy of the data, findings, or analysis in this post.

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