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THE World Bank Group said it is expanding its Singapore office to create its first Infrastructure and Urban Development Hub.
The expanded hub operation will provide services at the global level, employing more than 200 people from the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) over the next two years.
Work from the World Bank Group's public sector side will involve sectoral teams dedicated to energy and extractives, water, transport, information and communications technology, public-private partnerships, trade and competitiveness, and urban development as well as the global infrastructure facility.
"As the center of global economic activity gravitates increasingly to East Asia, Singapore's role will further grow. This provides huge opportunities for emerging and developing economies," said Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank vice-president for East Asia and the Pacific region.
"The World Bank Group wants to seize this opportunity and build a dynamic partnership for the future that will have important spin-off effects for developing countries," he said.
A complementary focus of the hub will be expanded investment and advisory programmes and instruments offered by the IFC and MIGA, the World Bank Group's private sector arms.
"The World Bank Group will leverage Singapore's position in global capital markets by establishing its Asia Treasury Hub, expanding the number of funds managed out of Singapore by IFC's Asset Management Company, growing IFC's Investment and advisory teams to expand infrastructure investments and include the venture capital and technology teams as well as other sectors," said Jingdong Hua, IFC vice-president and treasurer.
The choice of Singapore for the Hub is premised on three factors: Singapore's unique role as a regional business and trade centre, its strong position in world capital markets, and its remarkable development history.
Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law Indranee Rajah, who witnessed the signing of an agreement between the World Bank Group and the Singapore Government on Tuesday, noted that the next phase of the Singapore Hub will foster greater and more meaningful integration of the World Bank's functions with Singapore's strengths and developmental experience.
"The World Bank Group can collaborate with Singapore's business and research ecosystem to enhance its range of solutions for developing countries in the region and beyond," she said.
Reflecting an urgent need for more infrastructure investment, more than 1.1 billion people around the world live without reliable electricity and 660 million people lack access to safe drinking water, while at least a third of rural communities have limited road access, according to the World Bank. Such poor infrastructure hurts the competitiveness of communities, countries, businesses, and impedes economic growth.
At the same time, urban areas throughout the Asia-Pacific region and elsewhere are growing as economies transform and people move to where opportunity exists, but proper planning for the rapid urbanisation occurring is vital to ensure sustainable economic growth, the World Bank said.