Singapore tops Asia in per capita returns from infrastructure

Singapore generates the highest built-asset income per person in Asia, at US$35,900(S$51,185.62), according to the Global Built Asset Performance Index by design and consulting firm Arcadis.

The index is designed to understand how built assets can power more growth to economies by examining the income generated by buildings and infrastructure (for example, roads, airports, power plants, malls, railways, ports) across 36 countries and comparing it to the size of the economy measured by gross domestic product (GDP) as well as per-capita incomes.

In Singapore's case, the study found that historically, the Republic has enjoyed a steady increase in returns on built assets per capita, although this growth has plateaued.

It said: "High savings rates were ploughed into productive investments that created a strong manufacturing hub, which resulted in Singapore steadily moving up the value chain. Now competing in some of the most high-value knowledge industries, reliance on built assets is slightly reduced, though it retains some of its high-tech manufacturing."

It added that Singapore's economic growth, which includes investment in both built and intangible assets, is certainly slowing.

"It may be difficult for the country to keep up its current rates in a world of lower trade growth and where the regional engine, China, has moved into a lower gear. However, the resilience of Singapore's economic growth over decades has been remarkable and so only a slight reduction is expected."

Last week, the Singapore government said it sees 2017's growth at a modest pace of 1-3 per cent, mirroring its earliest forecast for 2016, amid a backlash against globalisation.

The Arcadis report noted: "This optimism in the strength of the economy is shown through new smart infrastructure and urban development projects such as the new Central Business District in Jurong, into which the country is investing heavily".

Integral to the new Central Business District will be the Singapore terminus for the High Speed Rail to Kuala Lumpur in neighbouring Malaysia.

"There continues to be significant investment in Singapore's Changi Airport, with the new Terminal 4 under construction, and plans for both the new Terminal 5 and a third runway, which will double passenger capacity from the current 66 million to 135 million by 2025."

Girish Ramachandran, head of business advisory, South-east Asia at Arcadis, said: "It is evident that Singapore is keen to continue building new, smart and value-worth assets, and paying greater attention to maximising the productivity and performance of existing assets for the long term."

Governments around the world develop infrastructure not just to improve the quality of life for their citizens, but also to generate better returns for the economy.

Across the world, a total of US$36 trillion of GDP was generated from the built environment in 2016, an increase of US$3 trillion from 2014.

Singapore's total built asset returns is US$204 billion in 2016, up 3 per cent from US$198 billion in 2014.

Its built assets makes up about 45 per cent of GDP. Globally, it has the third highest built asset returns per capita, after Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Qatar has overtaken Singapore as the leading country in built asset returns per capita with an average of US$66,300, showing the former's success in economic diversification away from hydrocarbons.

After Singapore, the economies with the highest built-asset income per person in Asia are Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand, China, Indonesia, the Philippines and India - in this order

This article was first published on November 29, 2016.
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