Singapore tops in ability to generate built asset wealth

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THANKS to its strong industrial output, Singapore gains the most economic returns on a per-capita basis from its buildings and infrastructure, a new study published by design and consultancy firm Arcadis showed.

The report measures the amount of wealth generated by a country's infrastructure and how much "built assets" contribute to a nation's GDP.

Built assets refer to all sorts of infrastructure, including residential and non-residential construction, roads, manufacturing plants, land reclamation projects and infrastructure investments.

When adjusted for the size of its population, Singapore came in first globally. Arcadis said infrastructure generated an estimated US$29,500 for each member of the population in 2013, and it expects the figure to remain "broadly the same" this year.

The number is "significantly higher" than the equivalent figures for those in second and third place - Qatar and the United Arab Emirates generated US$20,500 and US$17,500 respectively last year.

Developed in conjunction with the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), Arcadis's Global Built Asset Performance Index measures the profit attributable to built assets - defined as "the residual income, once profit associated with wages, intangible capital and rent from natural assets ... is taken into account".

Arcadis said: "Measuring the income generated by a country's built asset wealth provides valuable insight into how effectively an economy makes use of the built assets it has at its disposal. The Singapore economy generates far more income per capital from its built asset wealth than the average economy ... (It) also performs strongly against comparably urbanised Hong Kong, where high per-capita wealth produces broadly average economic returns."

Noting that the variance between the two economies' infrastructure returns can be explained by the different structure of each economy, Arcadis said that a high proportion of Singapore's economic output continues to be derived from industrial output, whereas Hong Kong is overwhelmingly a service-based economy.

Said Simon Baxter, location principal at EC Harris Singapore: "Of the advanced economies, Singapore is a standout performer in terms of built asset wealth and economic performance with a high proportion of its GDP attributable to built assets.

"The challenge facing Singapore over the coming years will be to maintain this level of excellence as the population begins to expand and the demand placed on the country's assets continues to grow".

In absolute terms, Singapore ranked 25th out of the 30 markets surveyed because of its small geographic size and population. China, India, and Japan all featured in the world's top five markets in terms of GDP generated from infrastructure, with the US and Germany rounding out the top five.

Source: Business Times, 8 May 2014