SINGAPORE (Aug 19): Collaborative infrastructure development can help unlock Asia’s growth potential, even as the region struggles with environmental vulnerability and growing income disparity, says Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean.

Speaking at the fifth Singapore Regional Business Forum (SRBF) on Aug 15, Teo says that infrastructure will be a good equaliser for the region, and urges Asian countries to “achieve more inclusive and sustainable economic growth to bring about a future of lasting peace and stability”.

Citing research from global consulting firm McKinsey, Teo notes that Asia already comprises 21 of the 30 largest cities in the world, and is home to over 40% of the world’s 5,000 biggest companies.

And he believes that Singapore can boost the region’s growth through openness, innovation and sustainability.

Already, Teo says the city state has provided loans or advisory services for about 60% of the projects in Southeast Asia.

Going forward, he says the Republic can foster “an open and inclusive environment” that brings together countries and companies with “the right expertise”.

A possible way for this is through Singapore’s ability to provide innovative and environmentally-sustainable infrastructure solutions, thanks to its “understanding of the region and strengths as a financial Centre and legal hub,” Teo says.

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank president Jin Liqun agrees, stressing the need for sustainable development.

“Operations in infrastructure must improve and evolve,” he says, adding that this can be done through investments in sustainable infrastructure.

Jin, who was also a keynote speaker at the event, acknowledges Singapore’s status as a regional hub for infrastructure talent, expertise and innovation. He adds that such capabilities have allowed for the conceptualisation and efficient execution of projects.

Teo Siong Seng, chairman of the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), points out that this strength has allowed for the seamless entry of businesses here.

He believes that this will enhance business collaboration greatly, both digitally and physically, which is a key factor that will allow businesses, especially small and medium enterprises, to scale and get a larger and more diversified customer demographic.

In addition, he encourages businesses to look beyond Asean to other regions in the world, in order to bank on more opportunities and spread out their risks and challenges.

“Strengthening business collaboration for regional connectivity has to be grounded in mutual cooperation, respect, shared values, and most importantly, a common vision and goal,” says SBF’s Teo.