Last April, in his week-long visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, PM Lee said that water management as a key sector in the Middle East that Singaporean companies could do well in.
He pointed out that Singaporean companies could potentially play a role in the Red Sea-Dead Sea canal project.
“One of our companies is interested in bidding for the project and we hope that they put in good bids and will be well considered,” he said.
The project, jointly managed by the Jordanian and Israeli governments, involves building a canal to bring the waters of the Red Sea into the Dead Sea. It would help to desalinate water and generate energy at affordable prices for Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The first phase of the project is expected to cost more than US$1 billion. The media reported that Hyflux, Sembcorp and Keppel are some of the Singaporean companies that have a track record in water management and treatment.
“Not every (Singaporean) company has a good fit with Israel or with Jordan. These (water management and technology) are fields where there is a good fit,” PM Lee added.
Singapore kicked out of selection
However, it was later announced that the management of the project has shortlisted 5 companies in the final round of selection. Singapore is not inside:
1. CNTIC Consortium from China
2. Hutchison Water International Holdings
3. Korea Water Resources Corporation
4. Mitsubishi Corporation
5. Suez International SAS
Israeli Minister welcomes Chinese involvement in project
In a news report published on Sunday (4 Jun), Israel’s Minister of Regional Cooperation, Tzachi Hanegbi, was said to have welcomed China’s involvement in the project:
“Ninety-five companies began three years ago, and only five are left, one of them a Chinese company,” Minister Hanegbi said. He was speaking to reporters on the sidelines at the recent Beijing forum on China’s Belt and Road initiative. “In the end, one will be picked to run the project.”
The state-owned Chinese company’s success in reaching the shortlist could pave the way for other Chinese firms to seek work on the project, especially as Beijing pushes investment and infrastructure to the region and beyond under the massive Belt and Road Initiative, Minister Hanegbi added.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has already pledged more than US$100 billion in its Belt and Road Initiative. If the Chinese company wins the contract, it would represent one of the few countries that has maintained good relations with both the Palestinians and Israel.
“What can be China’s best involvement is in the projects Israeli and Palestinians are pushing together, because this is probably the basis for gaining trust with the people,” Minister Hanegbi said.
“China has a balancing and moderating role in the Middle East and China is part of any effort that is relevant to coordinate UN Security Council,” he added. China is one of the 5 permanent members of UN Security Council.
If the Chinese wins the contract, how likely is Singapore to get subcontracts from them? If we get a piece of the pie will help answer the question if Singapore’s alignment with the United States’ ‘rebalancing to Asia’ strategy has irreparably damaged our relationship with China.
Source: FB Note
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