Interview: Lim Hng Kiang
How can Singapore strengthen its investment in ASEAN now that the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) has been established?
LIM HNG KIANG: Singapore is committed to the AEC and has substantial investments in it. In 2015 Singapore maintained its position as the highest contributor to intra-ASEAN foreign direct investment (FDI) flows at 67.3% of the total. Singapore is also the second-highest recipient of intra-ASEAN FDI at 15.4%. Key to ensuring positive investment trends between Singapore and ASEAN is maintaining our long-standing reputation as a trusted regional investment centre. This allows us to continue playing a key role in facilitating investment flows in the region by encouraging potential investors to choose Singapore as their conduit for expanding their investment footprint into the rest of ASEAN.
To do so, Singapore continues to maintain investment-friendly public policies. This includes ensuring a strong and transparent legal framework and streamlining processes for enterprises. For example, we have recently reviewed the Business Names Registration Act to simplify the process for the registration of persons and business names by allowing registration and renewal of names for up to three years instead of one year. In this aspect, Singapore has consistently done well. We recently ranked as the easiest country worldwide to do business for the 11th consecutive year, according to World Bank’s Doing Business 2016 index. Aside from maintaining a business and investment friendly environment in Singapore, a sound regional investment regime in ASEAN will complement Singapore’s position as a reliable regional investment hub.
ASEAN’s work in facilitating investments does not stop with the establishment of the AEC in 2015. Singapore continues to work with our ASEAN counterparts to strengthen investment flows in the region under the AEC Blueprint 2025. For example, we are currently working with all member states to improve the ease of doing business within the region. Such efforts include initiatives to improve transparency in investment-related policies and regulations to create better resources and knowledge to help our businesses internationalise.
In what ways can ASEAN members benefit from Singapore’s strong financial sector?
LIM: Singapore is well positioned to serve the financing, investment and risk management needs of ASEAN companies. Many global financial institutions are represented in Singapore, offering a wide suite of financing and treasury management services, complemented by our strong asset management capabilities. We also have a vibrant insurance ecosystem comprising top global reinsurers, specialty players and a growing number of insurance research institutes, modelling firms and innovation labs, with the ability to place large reinsurance programmes and provide bespoke and customised risk management solutions. Our financial centre is committed to supporting the newly established AEC.
What strategies could Singapore initiate to strengthen the region vis-à-vis China?
LIM: ASEAN has huge growth potential and offers abundant opportunities. It is estimated to become the fourth-largest single market in the world, with more than half of its population expected to be living in urban areas by 2030. With strong fundamentals, ASEAN is a choice investment destination for Chinese companies as more of them internationalise under the “One Belt, One Road” initiative. Singapore can play a useful role in fostering closer regional cooperation with China with our strengths in infrastructure financing, transport, logistics and urban solutions. ASEAN’s internal integration, through its AEC aspirations, better prepares it to be a partner to China in global supply, production and value chains. This is bolstered by the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area, which was upgraded in November 2015. With this deal, we are optimistic that the ASEAN-China relationship will grow from strength to strength.
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