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Citi Perspectives for the Public Sector - Vol 2, 2013

Helping Cities Help their Citizens

With the headlines dominated by the fiscal debates in the US and the eurozone’s ongoing debt crises, the continuing growth story of Asia has been easy to overlook in recent months. While Asia faces a number of challenges, the long-term growth prospects of the region are indisputable.

by Munir S Nanji
Regional Head, Asia Pacific, Bank Services Group and Public Sector

As a region, Asia continues to enjoy growing GDP and more favorable demographic trends than many developed countries. Many countries in the region have a solid macro-economic base and strong reserves. Consequently, governments across Asia are focused on how they can meet the growing aspirations of their increasingly urban populations.

The demand for public services in urban areas is growing, resulting in a need for governments to find ways to improve their social infrastructure in order to meet their citizens' demands for improved medical care, transportation and education, which tend to be publicly-driven if not always wholly publicly funded. National, state and municipal governments also recognize that infrastructure investment is essential if they are to sustain the level of GDP growth they need to make social investments in healthcare and other areas, and to remain globally competitive.

Appropriate investment
The needs and goals of cities in Asia span a wide range of areas. For example, in Singapore the government aims to improve the healthcare ecosystem, which encompasses hospitals, medical insurance companies, pharmacies and healthcare payments systems. Similarly, in Korea and Malaysia governments are focused on ensuring that their education systems have the right equipment, appropriate local and international faculties, suitable links between education and corporates, and that they operate within a competitive framework. Meanwhile, in Vietnam, the government’s ambitious road building program is making use of export agency financing, which enables it to obtain funding at attractive rates and achieve its development goals.

The opportunities in the region available to Asia’s citizens - and its countries - are incredible: politicians, economists and philosophers both within and outside the region believe this is Asia’s century. However, in order to ensure that the region fulfills its promise, Asia’s governments need support and access to innovative ideas and financial technology.

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