More Chongqing flights with new China-S'pore project

More flights between Singapore and Chongqing, and also between South-east Asia and western China via the south-western Chinese city, are in the pipeline, as part of a new China-Singapore project to boost regional connectivity.

These plans were part of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) inked between Singapore entities Changi Airport Group and SilkAir and several Chinese airlines yesterday as the two countries marked the operational start of the government-led project based in Chongqing. At an outdoor ceremony held in the Jiangbeizui central business district (CBD) area, labour chief Chan Chun Sing and Chongqing party chief Sun Zhengcai unveiled a plaque for the project administrative committee's office.

Proposed by China in late 2013 and launched during President Xi Jinping's visit to Singapore in November, the project is aimed primarily at boosting growth in China's less-developed western regions.

Its other goals include supporting China's revival of ancient trade routes to deepen its trade links with external economies and serving as a platform for younger leaders of both sides to work together.

While the full name of the project is China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity, Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry has shortened it to the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative (CCI) in a statement.

Mr Chan, Singapore's pointman for the project, and Chongqing Mayor Huang Qifan yesterday also held the first meeting of the Joint Implementation Council (JIC), which they both chair.

At the meeting, Mr Huang revealed that the 11 MOUs signed yesterday totalled some US$6.56 billion (S$9.5 billion). "This is only the first batch. We are sure there will be more in the future," he said.

Mr Chan said Singapore has appointed six business leaders as consultants to lend their corporate and professional expertise to the third government-led project. They are Singapore Business Federation president Teo Siong Seng; Singapore National Employers Federation president Robert Yap; Surbana Jurong and Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong; PSA International group chief executive officer Tan Chong Meng; Temasek Holdings head of investment group and China co-head Chia Song Hwee; and IT solutions provider NCS chief executive officer Chia Wee Boon.

Mr Chan, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said he and Mr Sun agreed yesterday on the need for a masterplan to guide the CCI's implementation and meet its developmental needs.

At a media briefing held later, Mr Huang said Singapore's Temasek Holdings and Chinese government agencies are exploring a joint fund to look for suitable investments in China and South-east Asia.

The JIC sets the third government-led project apart from the Suzhou Industrial Park and the Tianjin Eco-city - each coordinated by a joint working committee and overseen by the joint steering council at the deputy premier level.

Mr Chan later told Singapore media that it is necessary for the CCI to have a JIC, which sits below a joint working committee he co-chairs with China's Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng, to better coordinate policies and implementation at both national and local levels.

"Take the financial sector for example. There are financial rules set in Beijing that affect the whole country so we must interface at that level. There are also financial products and services we deliver in Chongqing and the western region that require us to work with local officials," he said.

This article was first published on January 9, 2016.
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