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SGX due to start ops at GIFT City, Singapore envoy says a ‘ghost town’ after work hours

Singapore High Commissioner Simon Wong says it is “hard” for Singaporeans to live in GIFT City as it is “quite a ghost town” after working hours. He also says the “bylaws are very tough” and “it is difficult to build a financial centre”.

Written by Avinash Nair , Leena Misra | Ahmedabad |
Updated: April 19, 2022 5:57:05 am
On the pace of development of GIFT City, Singapore High Commissioner Simon Wong said to build a financial centre, the bylaws "must be easy to deal with" and foreign companies should be allowed to “make profit”. (Reuters/File)

This July, the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX), which opened its office in GIFT City in Gandhinagar last October, is due to start seamless trading. But Singapore High Commissioner Simon Wong says it is “hard” for Singaporeans to live in GIFT City as it is “quite a ghost town” after working hours. He also says the “bylaws are very tough” and “it is difficult to build a financial centre”.

In Gujarat last week to review progress on the SGX, investments and the affordable housing project being built under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) in collaboration with Singapore firm Surbana Jurong, Wong told The Indian Express: “It (GIFT City) is buzzing in the daytime. It is short of… humans. So if you want to make it a very liveable city, you need amenities to come in, you need a supermarket. Of course, there are schools coming in already, but it is (about) the ease of living. It is quite a ghost town after working hours.”

He said the Gandhinagar-Ahmedabad Metro would help make commuting easy between the two cities which are 30 km apart.

On the pace of development of GIFT City, Wong said to build a financial centre, the bylaws “must be easy to deal with” and foreign companies should be allowed to “make profit”.

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“India has the carrying capacity to become a leading financial centre in this region. If we want to maximise laws to catch illegal transactions or black money, you will cringe normal trade, because your laws are too complicated. So (you have to choose whether) you want to maximise protection or randomly pick on black money. If you want to go into the spectrum of focusing on black money not escaping, then it will be very difficult to compete with other international financial centres. Because your bylaws are very tough. It is difficult to build a financial centre. It takes decades to come up where we are. Some feel GIFT City’s development has been slow. However, in reality, you have to build the hardware and software to attract people to come organically. You cannot force people to come. If no profit is made, nobody will come,” he said.

“Two things will make the financial centre: one, the bylaws must be easy to deal with; second is the carrying capacity. You must allow foreign companies to make profit and not see profit as a sin,” he said.

Asked about Wong’s remarks, Tapan Ray, Group CEO and Managing Director of GIFT City, told The Indian Express: “The infrastructure of twin cities Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar are completely at their disposal. There is no question of amenities being a deal-breaker. The international airport in Ahmedabad is just 20 minutes from GIFT City. The best of schools, colleges, hospitals, and shopping malls are there in Ahmedabad. Within GIFT City, a school and a hotel have already been set up, a hospital is being built and DMart will soon open a store. We have residential areas being built. For immediate medical emergencies, Apollo Hospital is just a 15-minute drive away.”

Ray said dummy trading of stocks will begin soon on the NSE-SGX platform which is expected to be operational by mid-2022.

Wong said: “Our plan is to begin seamless trading between NSE and SGX by July this year. As of now, we are doing all the tests. If you look at the trade volume right now with NSE-SGX in Nifty, it is about USD 6 billion. We want to open the tunnel bigger and move towards larger trade. In our discussion with IFSCA and GIFT City authorities, we want to pump up this trade volume to about USD 18-20 billion. Our partner is TCS which is helping us build the seamless tunnel.” The Singapore Arbitration Centre has already set up a branch in GIFT City.

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