Is China’s One Belt, One Road initiative a boon or bane for Singapore?

Although the One Belt, One Road initiative has yet to commence, some wonder if it will be disadvantageous for Singapore.


SINGAPORE – Proposed by China in 2013, the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative has yet to take place but has already garnered concern on whether it would become a threat to Singapore.

The initiative’s aim is to modernise trading routes through East Asia to Europe. According to Channel News Asia (CNA), the “belt” refers to land routes that pass through Central Asia, Middle East and ends at Northern Europe. The “road” refers to sea routes that go through Southeast Asia, South Asia, Africa, the Suez Canal and ends in the Northern Adriatic Sea.


Although approximately US$ 240 billion has been pumped in for its funding, the initiative is nowhere near the multi-trillion dollars needed for its completion. While Malaysia has shown their support for the initiative, there appears to be concern on whether it will have adverse effects for Singapore, especially with regard to its trade industry.

Quoran Wolfgang Lehmacher is positive about the initiative, and believes that countries nearing the belts and roads will stand to benefit from it. According to Lehmacher, OBOR covers a majority of the world’s population, global GDP, and energy reserves, which Singapore can tap on as well. He believes that the initiative “needs a different quality of growth: a digital revolution” which Singapore could use to its advantage.

OBOR faces the problem of red tape if goods are transported on land but the problem of higher cost if shipped by air – but a joint customs system could help to decrease transportation costs while maintaining efficiency. A digital revolution in the form of a digital customs system will help in attaining this.

Another Quoran, Guhan Venkatasubramanian, is hopeful that Singapore will be able to keep up with the times to benefit from OBOR.

“Remember OBOR is at-least 30–40 years away from full fledged success and Singapore has time to reinvent itself.”

– Guhan Venkatasubramanian on the effects OBOR will have on Singapore

He predicts that the small trading firms along Harbourfront, Tanjong Pagar, Anson Road and Cecil Street will cease operations while the remaining ones will shift towards the west. Guhan also mentions the rise of “tech startup’s and other digital companies” growing in areas such as One-North and Buona Vista as proof that this change has already started.

Quoran Gary Ow, pointed out that Singapore had gone beyond relying on its geographical location as a port to focus on other industries – “advanced manufacturing, finance, hub services, logistics, urban solutions, healthcare, and the digital economy.” He also mentioned that this was also brought up by the Community on the Future Economy (CFE) on February 9, according to The Straits Times.

“We cannot know which industries will succeed. What we do know is that Singapore must stay open to trade, talent and ideas, and build deep capabilities.”

– Community on the Future Economy in a report released on February 9

While it is unlikely that the OBOR initiative will be implemented in the near future, citizens seem to remain hopeful that Singapore will be able to adapt to meet its needs and gain from the initiative.

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