AIIB membership something to celebrate

Updated: 2017-03-24 09:28

(HK Edition)

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That Hong Kong will be accepted into the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) as a full member has long been anticipated in the city. But the good news, when the regional development bank's board announced Hong Kong's official admission on Thursday, still caused much excitement in many sectors of the local business community. Indeed, there is much to celebrate about the city's newly acquired AIIB membership.

If the experience of the World Bank and Asian Development Bank is anything to go by, there is every reason to believe AIIB will play a significant role in global economic and social development in future. The fact that 70 economies - including most major countries in the world - have joined the regional development bank bodes well for its future success. The long queue for AIIB membership suggests members believe the multilateral financial institution will bring them opportunities to gain huge economic benefits over the course of its operation, focusing on financing infrastructure development in the developing world - particularly Asia.

Compared with the developed world, whose economic development is on a plateau after decades of expansion, the developing world offers many more opportunities for growth. In particular Asia, the new global economic powerhouse, has strong demand for new infrastructure and facilities as the region's economic boom continues in the years - or even decades - to come. Available statistics indicate infrastructure development projects to be implemented across Asia from 2015 to 2030 will cost at least HK$310 trillion, or $40 trillion.

It is safe to assume AIIB is going to undertake financing for a considerable portion of these infrastructure development projects, given the clout it will wield by virtue of its strong international membership. The bank will need to raise a huge amount of external funds to help finance those infrastructure projects.

Hong Kong is in an enviably advantageous position to become a close partner of the bank in facilitating its fundraising functions, given the city's AIIB membership and broad expertise acquired as the city developed itself into an international financial center, along with the expected strong support from Beijing, the initiator of AIIB.

As many experts have suggested, Hong Kong can vie for the roles of corporate treasury center, financing center and arbitration center for the financial institution. There is also rich potential for Hong Kong to tap into project management. In fulfilling those roles, the city's status as an international financial center would be further strengthened. Of course, Hong Kong will face stiff competition for those roles from both regional and international rivals who also covet this business. But Hong Kong can count on the central government's strong support in this endeavor.

(HK Edition 03/24/2017 page1)