May 20, 2015

    Japan set to unveil $133b infrastructure plan for Asia


    JAPAN will announce a US$100 billion (S$133 billion) plan to invest in roads, bridges, railways and other building projects in Asia, a report said yesterday, weeks after China outlined its vision for a new infrastructure development bank in the region.

    In the latest twist in a tussle for influence in the fast-growing region, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to unveil the five-year public-private partnership this week, Jiji Press reported.

    The sum is in line with the expected US$100 billion capital of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) that Beijing and more than 50 founding member states are establishing.

    "The envisioned assistance is aimed at demonstrating Japan's stance to contribute to building up high-quality infrastructure in Asia through human resource development and technological transfers and showing the difference from the AIIB, so that Japan can keep a high profile in the region," Jiji said, without naming its sources.

    The report comes after Japan's Finance Minister Taro Aso said earlier this month at an event hosted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), a long-established body in which Tokyo plays a key role, that Japan was drafting a plan to boost investment in Asian infrastructure.

    Japan and the United States were the biggest standouts earlier this year when Beijing began courting members for the AIIB.

    Washington led a high-profile and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to dissuade allies from taking part in the project, which critics say will not demand the same good-governance and environmental standards imposed by other international bodies such as the ADB.

    But supporters say fears over undue Chinese influence are overblown, and that the participation by more than 50 countries, including ones as diverse as Britain and Iran, will dilute Beijing's power.

    Few observers doubt that there is a need for billions of dollars of investment in infrastructure in Asia.

    The region also offers rich pickings for countries with strong infrastructure industries, like Japan.

    In common with other governments, Tokyo uses loans or grants for big projects as a way of supporting large employers which export power plants, water systems, communication networks, railways and highways.

    The money reported yesterday would come through government-affiliated bodies, such as the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, as well as the ADB, Jiji said.

    Prospective founding members of the China-led AIIB will hold a three-day meeting in Singapore this week to discuss policies, Singapore's Finance Ministry said yesterday.

    The fifth chief negotiators' meeting on establishing the AIIB will begin today and involve its 57 prospective founding members, the ministry said in a statement.

    It will be co-chaired by Shi Yaobin, China's Vice Minister of Finance, and Yee Ping Yi, deputy secretary of Singapore's Ministry of Finance.

    "The meeting will discuss the draft articles of agreement and operational policies for the AIIB," it said, without providing further details.