Opening Remarks by President Halimah Yacob at the 2017 World Bank Group-Asia Competitiveness Institute Annual Conference

Professor Bernard Tan, Vice Provost, National University of Singapore

Miss Fautouma, Acting Director, The World Bank Group

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good Morning and a warm welcome to Singapore. 

I am happy to join you at the World Bank Group-Asia Competitiveness Institute Annual Conference this morning. It gives me great pleasure that Singapore can play host to this event and facilitate the convening of such a wide variety of industry players and thought leaders. 

The theme for this year’s conference, “Infrastructure Development for Economic Competitiveness”, is an interesting one.  The world is still recovering from the global financial crisis which took place almost a decade ago.  At the same time, we are witnessing how globalisation presents both opportunities and challenges for all of us.  Amidst these challenges, we need to continue to pay attention to the role of infrastructure development in facilitating economic activities, job creation and improvement in quality of life. I agree with Miss Fautouma when she said that infrastructure development is not just about construction and buildings, but also about people.  It is important that we put people at the centre of infrastructure development so that it will benefit people and improve the quality of their lives.  

Connectivity is a key factor in stimulating positive economic growth and employment in any country. Singapore has worked closely with World Bank and other multilateral development banks to build up a strong regional network to support the growth of regional infrastructure. Improved infrastructure has in the past also lifted millions of people from poverty, especially in Asia.

Singapore, too, continues to invest in building new infrastructure and upgrading existing ones.  For example, we have been building new airport terminals to attract and handle more air traffic, as well as new ports to consolidate our maritime infrastructure and free up new land. 

Meanwhile, even as we enhance our infrastructure to drive up vibrancy in our economies, it is important that infrastructure development is conducted in a responsible and sustainable manner.  We must take care not to cause unnecessary deterioration of our natural environments.  

These considerations are very much in line with what all countries pledged to do at the recently concluded APEC Leaders Meeting.  The APEC Leaders have called for wider and firmer initiatives to ensure a more balanced, innovative, inclusive, and sustainable growth strategy. There is great potential in countries working together to improve economic, financial and social inclusion, through greater cooperation among one another in infrastructure development projects.  We need to work even more closely together for mutual benefit.       

I am therefore glad that this year’s Conference includes dialogue sessions on the economic, financial, social, political and environmental impact of infrastructure development.  I am also heartened that the participants of this year’s Conference come from nearly all continents across the globe. I am confident that the dialogue sessions will serve as a useful platform for all participants from this diverse background to debate robustly and constructively on the issues.  It is useful to learn from others, including the many countries around the world, and hence the sharing sessions with the different regions will be beneficial.  

Let me wish all of you a fruitful conference ahead, and I also wish you a pleasant stay in Singapore.  I hope you will find time to explore the garden city of Singapore during your stay here.

Thank you.