Improving attractiveness of Vietnam’s infrastructure needs

February 23, 2021 | 13:54
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Vietnam is estimated to need about $480 billion for infrastructure development through to 2030. Considering the sector has been mostly mobilising capital from official development assistance, there is an urgent need for Vietnam to consider attracting foreign private investment. Seth Tan, executive director of Infrastructure Asia, talked with VIR’s Bich Ngoc about ways to tackle this important task.

Vietnam is calling for capital to facilitate its infrastructure projects that will serve as the backbone of its development. Is the legal framework sufficient to accommodate investors’ needs?

1532 p6 improving attractiveness of vietnams infrastructure needs
Seth Tan, executive director of Infrastructure Asia

In general, when countries move to the next stage of development, there can be instances that existing laws and regulations are updated in time. However, the government has done a good job in ensuring that the laws are up to speed.

One of the remarkable efforts was the passing of the Law on Public Private Partnership Investment by the National Assembly last year. This is expected to open a widen corridor for foreign investors to enter.

What sentiments have you been seeing among foreign investors about the Vietnamese market?

We have seen an increasing interest from foreign investors, even during this time when COVID-19 is drastically affecting the economy in Vietnam and globally. We see many Singapore-based companies continue to invest in Vietnam.

According to statistics from the Vietnam Ministry of Planning and Investment, despite the strong impact of COVID-19, Singapore remained the top country in terms of foreign investment in Vietnam in 2020 with more than $9 billion.

I think Vietnam has done very well in terms of attracting investment in all sectors, particularly in manufacturing and processing, as well as renewables, waste management, and water treatment.

There are many major organisations from Singapore that have been investing in Vietnam for a long time. These include Sembcorp, which has been in Vietnam for more than 20 years, as well as developers such as CapitaLand, Keppel Land, and Frasers. In November 2020, Vinh Phuc ICD Logistics Centre (SuperPort), the largest logistics project in the country, was launched in Vinh Phuc province. T&T Group of Vietnam and YCH Group will be investing about $170 million to build SuperPort.

The centre will serve as a transit point for domestic goods, exports, imports, and others transported on the Hanoi-Lao Cai economic corridor and from China via the Lao Cai border gate. It will also act as an inland container depot and provide customs clearance services for exports and imports.

How do you evaluate the appeal of infrastructure projects in Vietnam to international private investors?

Given the high growth potential of Vietnam in the coming years and consequently the need for infrastructure, the international private sector remains quite keen to invest in quality opportunities.

Infrastructure Asia is a regional infrastructure project facilitation office under the Singapore government. We aim to harness the network and collective capabilities of public sector agencies and private sector firms, and partner with stakeholders across the region to meet Asia’s large infrastructure needs.

We function as a bridge, helping to connect government organisations in Southeast Asia (including Vietnam) and South Asia with the most suitable partners from our network to catalyse projects.

Such partners include Singapore-based infrastructure players as well as multilateral and third-country partners like the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the US International Development Finance Corporation, and the Danish International Development Agency.

How does Infrastructure Asia help with funding-related challenges?

Most governments’ budgets are unable to finance 100 per cent of the investment needed for infrastructure development. Therefore, it is imperative to tap into funds from the private sector.

At Infrastructure Asia, we bring the ideas and various solutions to improve the attractiveness of infrastructure projects to the international private sector and facilitate the best solutions for them to get involved.

We also involve the private sector early on in the discussions. This is important as studies from Global Infrastructure Hub (a G20 office) show it can improve the investability of opportunities.

What is Infrastructure Asia’s plan for the Vietnamese market in the time to come?

We continue to stand ready to support Vietnam. In particular, we think that logistics and environmental solutions, such as water and waste management, will be in demand as the country develops. They will also present opportunities for private sector capital.

We will also work with third-country partners to explore finance investment in Vietnam, and provide options and possibilities for sustainable infrastructure (including climate-resilient infrastructure) to Vietnam.

By Bich Ngoc

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