Singapore in talks with India to help build new cities

Singapore in talks with India to help build new cities

SINGAPORE - Singapore is in talks with India to help build new cities and explore "opportunities" to create new townships as well as industrial and IT parks in Asia's third-largest economy, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office S. Iswaran told a business summit in the western state of Gujarat.

"Singapore government agencies and our private sector can make useful contributions in this sector having gained deep expertise in driving our own development over the past five decades," Mr Iswaran, who is also Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry, said at yesterday's opening of the biennial Vibrant Gujarat Summit.

"We are working with Andhra Pradesh with masterplanning and development of its new capital city and exploring opportunities in other states and cities in sectors such as township development, industrial and IT parks as well as utilities such as power and water."

He also said Singapore would continue to work with the government and business community of India to deepen ties and collaborations with South-east Asia.

The summit, aimed at attracting foreign investment into Gujarat and India, was opened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and attracted top Indian business honchos such as India's richest man Mukesh Ambani, international luminaries like United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry, and participants from 100 countries.

After arriving here on Saturday Mr Iswaran called on Mr Modi. They discussed the government's 100 smart cities initiative that includes a plan to create new cities and upgrade infrastructure in existing cities.

Both sides also "reaffirmed longstanding bilateral ties", said a statement release from the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

The Vibrant Gujarat summit has gained prominence, thanks to Mr Modi, who was chief minister of Gujarat for nearly 13 years and is credited with transforming it into an economic powerhouse.

Yesterday, Mr Modi assured potential investors he would undertake "unlimited" reforms to revive India's flagging economy.

"We are planning to take a quantum leap. It is not limited to one sector or region, it is truly unlimited," he said.

On the back of these pledges, there are high expectations.

"I see Gujarat as part of what Prime Minister Modi is trying to do for the rest of India," said Mr Tony Soh, chief corporate officer of The Ascott, a Singapore serviced residence company with investments of US$250 million (S$333 million) in India.

"In terms of what is possible, going from one state to the whole country, it is a different scale but I think there is a certain level of optimism," he said.

"If the Modi government gets things going, we are very confident we will grow very quickly in India in the next three to five years."

Other Singapore companies such as Chase Resource Management, an energy firm, are also looking to enter the Indian market.

The 70-strong business delegation that travelled with Mr Iswaran to the summit is the biggest in recent years, said IE Singapore.

Said Mr Tan Soon Kim, assistant chief executive at IE Singapore: "There are challenges in terms of issues like bureaucracy, interpretation and implementation of regulations, land and labour issues (in India).

These are teething problems.

"But there is a sense of anticipation. India is back on the radar of companies."

This article was first published on January 12, 2015.
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