Singapore ‘cannot afford to outbid the big boys’ to attract investments, says DPM Wong
SINGAPORE: As major economies mobilise large sums of money to build up their own strategic industries, Singapore “cannot afford to outbid the big boys” to attract investments from multinational corporations, said Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong on Monday (May 1).
Singapore is already feeling the impact as competition for investments becomes tougher, said Mr Wong, as he laid out several challenges that Singapore faces in a world that is “in dire straits”.
“We won’t have enough money to match the competition but what we must have enough of are ingenuity and innovation, guts and gumption,” he said, addressing 1,400 labour movement leaders, workers and tripartite partners at the NTUC May Day Rally.
“That’s the only way we can and will prevail, even when the odds are stacked against us.”
This is the first time Mr Wong, who is expected to be Singapore’s next Prime Minister, is delivering the keynote speech at the annual May Day Rally in place of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. He had spoken alongside Mr Lee in last year’s rally.
Mr Lee delivered his May Day message on Sunday, where he described how the external environment remains volatile and fraught with geopolitical tensions. But he said Singapore can be “cautiously optimistic” about its immediate economic prospects.
STIFFER COMPETITION FOR INVESTMENTS
In a wide-ranging speech lasting for about 40 minutes, Mr Wong noted that advanced economies are rolling out massive subsidies to build up their own domestic production capacities, especially in strategic industries like semiconductors and clean energy.
He cited Germany as an example, which is negotiating with Intel to establish a large semiconductor plant in Eastern Germany. The deal involves S$10 billion (US$7.5 billion) in financing support.
“Ten billion dollars for just one project. That’s almost double what MTI (Ministry of Trade and Industry) will spend this year to grow our entire economy,” he said.
“Can we afford to outbid the big boys – not only the Germans, but also other Europeans, the Americans, the Chinese, the Japanese? Outbid all of them for the investments we want?”
Singapore is already feeling the impact, said Mr Wong, citing conversations with MNCs about raising Singapore’s effective corporate tax rates to 15 per cent in line with an overhaul of global tax rules.
“They tell us: Yes we understand this is happening worldwide. Singapore’s incentives used to be ‘best in class’. But if your tax rates go up, then Singapore will become less competitive compared to other places.
“Besides, my home jurisdiction is offering such large subsidies for my next investment. So please tell me what Singapore can offer to persuade my HQ to locate the next investment project here,” said Mr Wong.
“Some politicians go around telling Singaporeans: ‘Don’t worry, raise corporate tax to 15 per cent. You will have lots of revenue and anyway, we also have lots of reserves so we can merrily spend more’. Unfortunately, they don’t understand the magnitude of the challenges we face,” he added.
“So let me tell you plainly: We cannot afford to outbid the big boys just to get the MNCs to invest here.”
Governments are continuing to push investment into clean energy amid the global energy crisis – News – IEA
The amount of money allocated by governments to support clean energy investment since 2020 has risen to USD 1.34 trillion, according to the latest update of the IEA’s Government Energy Spending Tracker. Around USD 130 billion of new spending was announced in the last six months – among the slowest periods for new allocations since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This slowdown may be short-lived, however, as a number of additional policy packages are being considered in Australia, Brazil, Canada, the European Union and Japan. Already, government spending is playing a central role in the rapid growth of clean energy investment and expanding clean technology supply chains, and is set to drive both to set to drive both to new heights in the years ahead. Notably, direct incentives for manufacturers aimed at bolstering domestic manufacturing of clean energy technologies now total around USD 90 billion.
At the same time, governments continue to increase spending on managing the immediate energy price shocks for consumers. Since the start of the global energy crisis in early 2022, governments have allocated USD 900 billion to short-term consumer affordability measures in addition to pre-existing support programmes and subsidies. Around 30% of this affordability spending has been announced in the past six months.
These measures have had a major role in moderating price increases for end users, but the energy crisis nonetheless took a toll on many people’s budgets. According to the IEA’s latest data on end-user prices across 12 countries, which together represent nearly 60% of the global population, the average household spent a higher share of its income on energy in 2022 as energy prices outpaced nominal wage growth. On average, households in major economies spend between 3% and 7% of their incomes to heat and cool their homes, to power appliances and to cook – though shares are higher for low-income households. In most major economies, the share of income spent on energy moved up by less than 1% thanks to government interventions.
At the pump, consumers felt the impact more acutely, especially in emerging markets and developing economies, where transport fuels accounted for the joint largest increase in household spending in 2022 alongside food. Without government intervention, this would have been much higher. This was the case in Indonesia, where the average household total energy expenditure would have tripled in 2022 were it not for affordability support.
Early numbers for 2023 show that wholesale energy prices are easing. However, retail prices are unlikely to fall as quickly. High prices are already making clean energy technologies more cost competitive, notably electric vehicles and heat pumps, which saw record sales in 2022. As high prices persist, the uptake of clean energy technologies is set to accelerate further, hastening the emergence of the new energy economy.
Brexit scaremongering proven wrong as London seals major investment in Europe – GB News
The UK attracted the highest amount of inward direct investment in 2022, extending its lion’s share of the European market to more than a quarter.
Releasing figures sure to infuriate pro-EU activists, the annual Ernst & Young (EY) attractiveness survey found foreign investors flocked to the City to fund 46 financial services projects last year, up from 39 in 2021.
By comparison, second place Paris enticed foreign investment for 35 finance proposals, sliding from 38 in 2021, while Madrid secured 22 foreign investment projects compared to 29 in 2021.
Anna Anthony, UK financial services managing partner at EY, said: “Investors recognise the strength, gold-standard governance and resilience of the UK’s financial system and see it as the preferred destination for growth, innovation and access to top talent.”
The Square Mile continues to be a beacon of prosperity
Overall, the UK attracted foreign investment to 76 financial services projects in 2022, a 17 per cent rise on the 63 projects in 2021.
It puts clear blue water between the UK and France, which recorded 45 projects in total, down 15 on 2021 figures.
Andrew Griffith, economic secretary to the Treasury, told City AM: “We have a tremendous track record of attracting the brightest and best companies in the world built on the long standing competitive advantages of the UK and its attractiveness as a place to do business.”
The UK has topped EY consultancy’s finance foreign direct investment table every year since the research started, including every year since the 2016 Brexit vote.
Andrew Griffith pictured second to the right
Likewise, London has led the European city table since it was first recorded in 1986.
America was the biggest source of foreign investment in financial services in Europe last year, accounting for 21 of the UK’s 76 projects in 2022.
Financial services investment projects created 2,603 jobs in the UK last year, a rise of four per cent on 2021.
Across Europe, 10,700 new jobs were created in financial services, of which 1,700 were recorded in France.
EY’s home in Canary Wharf at 25 Churchill Place
Cushman and Wakefield
Chris Hayward, policy chairman at the City of London Corporation, said: “London continues to lead Europe in attracting foreign direct investment in financial services, and the sector is proving resilient despite the global challenges facing the UK economy.”
Hayward added: “That is good news for every household, because a strong City creates the wealth and jobs that support the economy and fund our public services.”
EY has undergone a UK leadership shake up recently following a collapse in the consultancy firm’s plan to break up its audit and consulting operations globally.
The break up blueprint, coined ‘Project Everest’, attracted fierce internal criticism and was eventually abandoned but not before it had cost the firm £480million worth of internal work.
On the back of ditching the radical overhaul, EY has shrunk the UK executive committee from 13 to eight and announced that it will cut 3,000 jobs in the US.
The big four consultancy firm reported record levels of growth for its UK business in November 2022, with UK revenues up 17.2 per cent and UK fee income increasing to £3.23billion from £2.75billion.
Investment grade will boost realty
The local property market stands to reap significant benefits, both short-term and long-term, from a likely credit rating upgrade to investment level for Greece.
Industry executives say that would be a very positive development, as, after 14 years, the Greek real estate market will return to the “elite” of investment destinations and it will become easier to attract foreign investment groups and funds.
“There is an objective problem right now regarding the implementation of investments by a number of institutional investors, as there are rules that prohibit the placement of funds in countries below investment grade. In other words, even if there was an investment opportunity and they were willing to take the risk, such an investment would be cut off by the investment committee of the respective group, because it is not allowed to invest in countries that do not have a positive credit rating,” Tassos Kotzanastassis, ULI global management committee executive and CEO of international real estate investment management company 8G Group, tells Kathimerini.
Securing investment grade means the Greek property market will get back on the “radar” of large institutional investors and state groups that have a long-term investment horizon. This is a development that contradicts speculative moves by a portion of institutions that have been placed in Greece, with a purely short-term horizon, aiming to secure a quick profit and exit from the country.
However, as Kotzanastassis warns, new investments from large foreign funds should not be expected, at least not immediately. “In this period, at the international level, there is significant uncertainty and investors appear restrained. Many are looking for investment opportunities in the form of distressed assets,” he emphasizes.
One of the market’s perennial problems is it is shallow, so it is difficult to create economies of scale that maximize the return on an investment. Another key point is that all foreign investors of this scope are looking for properties with green characteristics, in the context of the ESG policy they follow. Such properties are still rare in this market, constituting a very small minority in relation to the total stock.
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