Speeches
Published Date: 07 December 2021

Remarks by Mr Leong Sing Chiong, Deputy Managing Director, Monetary Authority of Singapore, at the China International Finance Society Annual Conference on 7 December 2021

China International Finance Society Chairman, Mr Liu Liange 刘连舸 

Vice Chairman, Mr Wu Fulin 吴富林

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Introduction

1. Good morning. I am honoured to join you at this conference today from Singapore. 

2. 2021 was meant to be the year where the world would have finally brought the COVID-19 pandemic situation under control, resumed international travel and carried out full economic reopening. However, we are not there yet.  While much progress has been made by many countries to vaccinate their populations, we continue to see a resurgence of the spread of the virus in various regions, and we are all watching cautiously to see if the new Omicron variant will be more transmissible or deadly compared to the Delta variant.  

3. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years, the financial system has stayed resilient, and markets have remained functional. This has been critical as fiscal and monetary authorities around the world implemented aggressive policies to help businesses and individuals cope with COVID-19 disruptions. Finance has therefore played a critical role in helping our economies regain firmer footing this year, even if the COVID-19 situation is still evolving.

4. But looking ahead, there is growing recognition that finance must transform to better meet the significant needs of the future economy, particularly in Asia, and between China and ASEAN.

5. Today, we see three big trends re-shaping the regional economic and financial landscape – the growth of Asia, its transition to a net-zero carbon future, as well as increased digitalisation of business and finance.

6. There is opportunity for China and Singapore to ride these waves and play a bigger role in fuelling the region’s growth together, in a manner that is sustainable and supportive of innovation. 

Supporting the growth of Asia

7. The Asia-Pacific region is projected to be the largest driver of global GDP growth in 2021, driven by the three growth engines of China, India and ASEAN.

  •  With rising (household) incomes and increasingly tech-savvy consumers, Asian consumer markets are burgeoning.  

8. That is why more international corporates, including those from China, have chosen to do business in the region. Singapore is fortunate to be in a strong position to provide the financing, and the networks to be the gateway for the world to invest into Asia and ASEAN.

  • We have a stable and robust banking system, and well-developed public and private markets that can meet the financing needs of firms. This is complemented by our deep foreign exchange markets and expertise in providing solutions for local ASEAN currencies.
  • But it is in the private equity and venture capital markets that we can see the promise of Southeast Asia’s growth potential. Over the last five years, PE/VC assets under management (AUM) in Singapore have doubled, reflecting the vibrancy and resilience of the growth start-up and FinTech scene in Singapore and around the region. Last year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, PE and VC assets under management increased by a strong 50%.
  • Against this positive backdrop, it is heartening to see our banks and financial institutions collaborating closely, leveraging on each other’s networks to facilitate greater trade and investments between China and ASEAN. 

9. At the same time, we have been deepening financial connectivity between China and Singapore, to open new opportunities for our corporates, financial institutions and investors.

  • To facilitate the access of international and ASEAN investors into Chinese onshore markets, our financial institutions have collaborated to develop new instruments such as the CSOP ICBC FTSE Chinese government bond ETF, and established direct connectivity to onshore commodity derivative markets via Asia Pacific Futures’ participation in Shanghai’s International Energy Exchange.
  • We have also welcomed the listings of RMB bonds on the Singapore Exchange. This has helped Chinese entities raise their international profile and broaden their investor base.  Recent bond listings include China Development Bank’s onshore bonds, the Free Trade Zone Bonds of the Suzhou Industrial Park Investment Holdings, and the Shanghai Land Group. 

Supporting Asia’s transition towards a low carbon future

10. Beyond the financing needed to scale businesses, another key area of priority is green finance, to help our region transition to a low carbon economy. 

  • Asia is key to the world’s transition to a net-zero future. The region accounts for about half of global carbon emissionsAccording to BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy, Asia-Pacific accounted for 52% of global carbon dioxide emissions last year. and more than half of global energy consumption. 
  • Green finance can be a powerful enabler for Asia to achieve an effective, yet inclusive transition to carbon neutrality. 

11. To achieve this, China and ASEAN will require significant green financing.

  • It is estimated that China will require close to 500 trillion RMB in green and low carbon investments over the next 30 years, while
  • ASEAN will require about US$2 trillion in green investments over the next 10 years. 

12. Asia’s move towards a lower carbon economy will not be easy, as the region grapples with a heavy reliance on fossil fuels to supply its developmental and urbanisation needs. 

  •  Asian governments will have to strike a careful balance in transitioning towards greater sustainability, while ensuring economic and social development for its people. 

13. As an international financial centre, Singapore is committed to supporting the region’s transition towards net-zero.

  • We believe that there is scope for deeper collaboration between China and ASEAN, to catalyse greater sustainable financing in the region. 

14. First, we can work together towards establishing a common understanding of what constitutes green or transition activities.

  • In Singapore, an industry taskforce is developing a taxonomy that encompasses green and transition activities. This will provide clearer guidance, and foster more consistent approaches to the financing of important transition sectors which are key to the region’s transition to a net-zero future. One example is the power generation sector, where electricity and heat production make up more than 40% of total carbon dioxide emissions from energy usage in both ASEANASEAN State of Climate Change Report 2021 and ChinaReuters, 3 November 2021, “China targets 1.8% cut in average coal use at power plants by 2025”..
  • MAS is keen to collaborate with the People’s Bank of China and our other Chinese partners to foster consistent green taxonomies to unlock more cross-border sustainable financing flows. 

15. Second, we can help corporates that want to move towards more sustainable business practices obtain cheaper financing through sustainability-linked bonds and loans.

  • Sustainability-linked loans can provide lower lending rates if predefined sustainability performance targets are met.
  • In Singapore, we have provided grant schemes which help to defray costs that borrowers incur to certify the fulfilment of sustainability targets.
  • This can be beneficial to Chinese enterprises looking to raise financing overseas, within safe and specified limits. 

16. Third, we can work together to build strong green finance capabilities and expertise.

  • Singapore has set up three centres of excellence for training and research on green finance with an Asian focus. These include the Singapore Green Finance Centre where Bank of China is a founding partner.
  • Singapore financial institutions have partnered with Chinese banks, to raise awareness on the merits of green financing.
  • This has yielded positive results.
    • During the 12th Singapore-Guangdong Collaboration Council meeting held recently in October, Guangzhou Development District Holding Co announced plans to list its inaugural green bond issue on the Singapore Exchange.
    • At the Singapore-China (Chongqing) Connectivity Initiative Financial Summit last month, Bank of China Singapore and Chongqing’s Yuzhong District State-Owned Asset Operation Management Company signed a Memorandum of Understanding to explore a US$500 million green bond issuance in Singapore. 

Supporting Digitalisation 

17. Let me now touch on the third key trend – digitalisation of finance. 

  • Technology and innovation are re-shaping our economic and financial landscape, changing the way companies operate, the way money or value is stored, and the way finance is being intermediated. 
  • We are seeing new types of financial service providers, business models and collaborations.

18. As many new types of innovation emerge globally, MAS’ key focus is to ensure that technology in finance continues to be underpinned by interconnectivity and interoperability, so that global finance and payments systems do not inadvertently become fragmented. 

  • To this end, MAS has embarked on cross-border pilot projects to facilitate interconnectivity and interoperability across digital finance platforms and instruments. 

19. One such area is payments. MAS is partnering multiple countries including Thailand, Malaysia, India and Philippines to connect our instant payments systems. This will enable individuals and SMEs in our respective countries to make instant cross-border payments to each other, in a much lower cost way, and with greater ease.

  • China’s financial system has seen tremendous advances in digital finance, including in payments, and the introduction of the e-CNY.
  • Last year, MAS and the People’s Bank of China signed an MOU to collaborate in digital finance. This MOU aims to strengthen digital finance connectivity in the areas of trade, tourism and e-commerce.

20. Another area where we are working together to enhance digital connectivity is in trade. Under the Singapore-China (Shenzhen) Smart City initiative, Singapore and Shenzhen have successfully piloted the use of electronic bills of ladings for cross-border trade finance in September this year. The pilot, which involved corporates, banks and digital platforms on both sides, demonstrated the potential of digital connectivity in enhancing the efficiency of cross-border trade.

21. We are also seeing similar collaboration in Chongqing. At the Singapore-China (Chongqing) Connectivity Initiative Financial Summit last month, RootAnt, a Singapore FinTech firm, signed an agreement with Bank of China where RootAnt will provide a digital trade financing platform on the Singapore side, together with Linklogis Shenzhen on the Chinese side, to enable traders, logistics companies, and Bank Of China’s branches in Singapore and Chongqing to exchange electronic trade documents.

22. We look forward to having more of such pilots and collaborations in digital finance in future.

Conclusion

23. In conclusion, while the world continues its ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, the pandemic itself has accelerated many key structural trends that will transform the economy, our societies and how we live our lives. The financial industry will also undergo significant change, but finance will play a critical role in supporting economic transformation.

24. Asia will play an increasingly bigger role in driving global growth, and shaping the new economic and financial landscape in the years to come. And underpinning Asia’s growth is the continued expansion of China-ASEAN trade and financial flows.

25. There is much that our two countries can do together. I am confident that the partnership between China and Singapore, and between China and ASEAN, will grow from strength to strength. This will bring broader benefits to our economies and create a resilient, innovative and sustainable financial ecosystem across Asia.

Thank you.