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Japan pulls ahead in SEA infrastructure race

Japanese-backed projects in region valued at US$367b while China's tally stands at US$255b


JAPAN is still winning the South-east Asia infrastructure race against China, with pending projects worth almost one-and-a-half times its rival, according to the latest data from Fitch Solutions.

Japanese-backed projects in the region's six biggest economies - Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam - are valued at US$367 billion, the figures show. China's tally is US$255 billion.

The figures underline both the rampant need for infrastructure development in South-east Asia, as well as Japan's dominance over China, despite Chinese President Xi Jinping's push to spend on railways and ports via his signature Belt and Road Initiative.

The Asian Development Bank has estimated that South-east Asia's economies will need US$210 billion a year in infrastructure investment from 2016 to 2030, just to keep up the momentum in economic growth.

The latest Fitch figures, provided in response to Bloomberg, count only pending projects - those at the stages of planning, feasibility study, tender and currently under construction. Fitch data in February 2018 put Japan's investment at US$230 billion and China's at US$155 billion.

Vietnam is by far the biggest focus for Japan's infrastructure involvement, with pending projects worth US$209 billion - more than half of Japan's total. That includes a US$58.7 billion high-speed railway between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

For China, Indonesia is the primary customer, making up US$93 billion, or 36 per cent, of its overall. The prized project there is the Kayan River hydropower plant, valued at US$17.8 billion.

Across all of South-east Asia and by number of projects, Japan also carries the day, though by a smaller margin: 240 infrastructure ventures have Japanese backing, versus 210 for China in all 10 South-east Asian economies. BLOOMBERG