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20 Sep, 2015

New Asian Infrastructure Bank President vows to engage private sector in Asia’s investment

SINGAPORE, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) — Jin Liqun, president-designate of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), said here on Saturday that the AIIB is a very good combination of strong features of public sector companies and private sector companies, and it would do more to engage private sector in infrastructure investment.

Jin made the remarks at a press conference after the conclusion of the Singapore Summit, which was held on Friday and Saturday. Talking about how to engage private sector in infrastructure investment in Asia, Jin said the AIIB would act as a platform for the private sector companies to invest in infrastructure facilities.

“Normally, infrastructure investment would have long gestation period, and there are also huge risks. So when we step in, it would provide a lot of comfort to the private sectors when they work with local governments in this region. We can also help with creating bankable projects for private sector to participate in.”

While emphasizing that the AIIB would not limit to private sector within this region but across the world, Jin said the joining of private sector companies can also contribute as “they’ re normally cost-effective, they look at the profitability, and have much less bureaucracy”.

The AIIB, which has 57 prospective founding countries, will have authorized capital of 100 billion U.S. dollars. Asian countries will contribute up to 75 percent of the total capital and be allocated a share of the quota based on their economic size.

The allocation of capital reflects the nature of AIIB, which focuses on infrastructure investment in countries within the region. And some of these countries, particularly the low-income countries, have backlog in infrastructure projects, but lack of finance. In response, Jin said the AIIB would not “sidestep low- income countries”.

“Because of the sustainability issues, it may not be feasible for a number of low-income countries to borrow from the market, World Bank and ADB. When we step in, we can work with the private sector without adding the public debt to the sovereign government, ” Jin explained.

“We should cover both relatively-developed emerging economies and low-income countries, so it should be a balanced program and that are, in my view, very much important for this bank to be conscious of the need of all this countries and to meet the needs of low-income developing countries. Because this is not a purely commercial institution, we cannot simply put the money where we can get the highest returns.”

When asked about how to cope with regional risks and domestic constrains while promoting projects in these countries, Jin said economic progress will naturally push the government to deal with the regulatory constraints.

“I would say, quite a number of developing countries in Asia are fully aware of the regular trade constraints and the red tape which would be adversely affecting the preparation of the projects. I think we should be realistic, about how fast the government in all this countries would be able to solve some of these issues. But I do believe that as long as we help them develop the basic infrastructure and economy, and they would be naturally and logically kind of push for the reform in some of these countries. When you have great demand for the manufacturing, services, and the government would be more conscious of the urgency, to deal with the regulatory issues,” he explained.

The Beijing-headquartered bank is expected to start operation at the end of the year under two preconditions, At least 10 prospective members sign the agreement, and the initial subscribed capital is no less than 50 percent of the authorized capital. So far, two countries, including Singapore, have completed the process, Jin stated, adding that he hopes to launch the first batch of projects no later than the second quarter of 2016.

In regards to the launching of programs, one big issue would be effectiveness. China has reiterated many times that the AIIB would be lean in its management, and Jin, as the president-designate of the bank, said the difference of AIIB from the existing organizations would be no duplication of the jobs and responsibilities within the bank.

“We should, for instance, have the management bear the responsibility, the decision-making in the specific projects or programs, the board, in my view, should take care of the overall policies, but should not be directly involved in the specific projects or programs. That could make things faster. However, we should understand, if the board delegates the authority to management to approve the specific project, the management must be held accountable.”

Another key player would be local governments, Jin stressed.

“If we can encourage the project sponsors and local governments to take more responsibility, you can help them develop their institutional capability, instead of being a nanny, to tell them to do this, to do that, you actually deprive them of the initiative to prepare things on their own.” He took China for example, saying that over the last three decades, China’s management capability improved through developing its own infrastructure programs. “It’s learning by doing process,” he said.