Singapore: Last week, an infrastructure project online portal that connects government, developers, and financiers was launched by Infrastructure Asia, a platform set up by Enterprise Singapore and Singapore’s Central Bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

The portal was formally announced at the Asian Infrastructure Forum on August 2 by Singapore’s Second Minister for Finance Indranee Rajah who said that the portal aims to support greater regional collaboration among complementary experts and brings greater visibility to the project opportunities in the exciting growth area of sustainable infrastructure.

The new online project portal serves as a marketplace for various parties interested in developing infrastructure projects in Asia and also to surface the region’s infrastructure project pipeline.

A look at the projects currently listed on the portal reveals that there are 11 infrastructure projects listed with a value exceeding USD2.7 billion. There are seven water and sanitation-related projects, two associated with logistics, and two are rail transportation projects. Indonesia leads the number of listed projects with five, Cambodia and the Philippines each as two, and Vietnam and India have one each.

The project from India that is on the portal is the New Delhi Railway Redevelopment Project Stage 2.

Infrastructure Asia says that Singapore which has an established ecosystem of various private sector firms including developers, engineering firms, procurement companies, construction firms, professional service providers, financial institutions, and multilateral development banks working together with public sector agencies, is in a unique position to serve Asia’s infrastructure needs and unlock the region’s infrastructure potential.

Lavan Thiru, executive director of Infrastructure Asia, said that the costs involved in searching for solution providers and partners are very high.

He added, “So there was a need for a platform that was neutral, a platform that has some level of independence and more importantly, a platform that can do some curation.” The newly launched project portal aims to showcase regional infrastructure projects and can connect public and private sector parties interested to partner with each other to develop these projects.

Project owners can list the project requirements on the platform and interested parties, such as solution providers or financiers, can access project details including its value, owner, and developers.

Thiru said that Infrastructure Asia will select projects to list on the portal based on whether they are marginally bankable, and are in sectors where Singapore or Singapore-based companies have expertise in.

During her opening keynote address at the Asia Infrastructure Forum which was held at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Minister Indranee said that to achieve the Paris Agreement of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, immediate and deep emissions reductions are needed.

She added that Singapore which announced that it will raise its climate ambition to achieve net-zero emissions by or around mid-century will ensure that its climate pledges are backed by the right strategies, policies, and actions.

The Minister continued, “Meeting our Sustainable Development Goals requires radically transforming the way we plan, construct and operate infrastructure. One opportunity that is frequently missed is in brownfield infrastructure, or existing assets, which are responsible for almost 80 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, particularly across the energy, transport, and buildings sectors. There is much that we can do to decarbonize our current stock of infrastructure, including improving energy and resource efficiencies in the built environment.”

Investments into brownfield assets could require modest investments but lead to outsized gains in decarbonization.

For emerging markets in Asia, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) estimates that retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency could reduce close to a billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. This is equivalent to taking almost 200 million internal combustion engine cars off the roads, which is about 15 percent of the world’s entire car population.

Capital is required to ensure these solutions can scale. It is estimated that USD2 trillion is needed to build sustainable infrastructure in Southeast Asia by 2030. Governments are cognisant of the huge amount of capital needed and while they are stepping forward to take the lead, private capital is required.

In Singapore, the public sector will be issuing up to SGD35 billion (USD25.3 billion) of green bonds to finance sustainable infrastructure projects by 2030, and the Philippines and India have also announced that their governments will issue their own green bonds.

Besides public funding, funding by private financial institutions is crucial for the success of infrastructure projects. Banks interviewed by Business Times Singapore (BT) say that financing not only depends on whether the project supports social and environmental causes, it also has to be economically viable. The sustainable infrastructure cash flows have to have the ability to repay long-tenure loans.

Yulanda Chung, head of sustainability, institutional banking group at DBS told BT that to manage these problems, regulatory certainty supported by commercial contract structures are needed. Closing the gap further requires robust tariff models that balance project costs and societal affordability, as well as appropriate economic incentives.

“We believe having a framework to outline a robust governance process on how the money raised will be used, and clearly define the green standards, will help banks finance more sustainable infrastructure projects,” Chung said.

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