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Economy

Asia's bridges and piers to be insured against disasters

Singapore, Japan and World Bank team to protect infrastructure

A view of a bridge that collapsed in Bali, Indonesia in 2016. The new insurance aims to offer protection for such Asian infrastructure.    © Reuters

TOKYO -- The Japanese and Singaporean governments with the World Bank are setting up an insurance scheme as early as spring against natural disasters in Asian countries, as climate change raises the risk for catastrophic cyclones and flooding.

Myanmar and Laos will be the first countries to buy the insurance. They will pay a combined $20 million to cover damage to bridges, piers and other public infrastructure caused by a natural disaster. Cambodia is considering joining the framework as well.

Administrative aspects will be handled by the Southeast Asia Disaster Risk Insurance Facility, a platform based in Singapore with support from the Japanese and Singaporean governments.

The World Bank will help calculate payouts, using satellite photos and other tools to evaluate damage even if local communications networks fail. The goal is to make up for as much of the damage as possible, using contributions from advanced economies and other players.

The new insurance will focus on lower-income countries with limited private-sector coverage. It may be extended to medium-income countries eventually as well, and Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines have expressed their interest.

Many companies have factories across Asia, and could face a hit to production and distribution if public infrastructure suffers long-term damage. The insurance is also designed to help foreign companies that enter into the region.

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