Thailand’s military junta government is looking to start construction of projects under a 1.5 trillion baht ($45 billion) investment plan before the country’s possible return to democracy late next year.
In an Interview Kanit Sangsubhan, the secretary-general of the office overseeing the plan, said Thailand is Enabling laws for the so-called Eastern Economic Corridor initiative which would be in place by the end of 2017 to bolster investor confidence, and construction of some of the planned infrastructure could begin next year.
According to Kanit., The Eastern Economic Corridor is part of the two-decade national strategy being crafted by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha to bolster Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy.
Werachon Sukondhapatipak, a government spokesman, said in March the strategy is part of the constitution and legally binding on future administrations. Where as Prayuth said in July the strategy will provide a master plan for future governments to follow.
While elections are possible by the end of next year based on the government’s road-map, an exact date has yet to be announced.
The plan for the corridor calls for a $6 billion upgrade of U-Tapao International Airport, $6.7 billion investment in railways, $12 billion for new cities and hospitals, and $15 billion for industry. The government expects about 80 percent of overall investment to come from the private sector.
The government is seeking to develop sophisticated industries such as robotics, aviation maintenance and digital technology in the corridor’s three eastern provinces of Rayong, Chachoengsao and Chonburi.
The administration has courted companies such as Airbus SE, Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Sikorsky Aircraft and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. to assess the corridor’s potential. Earlier this month, it hosted hundreds of Japanese companies in Thailand to market investment opportunities.
One major challenge for bringing advanced industry to the corridor is a workforce skills deficit. Kanit said Thailand will import skilled labor initially, while the nation tries to improve education standards.
Shares in Thai industrial estate developers Amata Corp. and WHA Corp.have rallied this year on speculation they could be beneficiaries of the push to develop the eastern seaboard.
Credit : Natnicha Chuwiruch and Sunil Jagtiani