Japanese: Don't let up on flood planning

Despite easing concerns over heavy floods this year, Japanese executives are calling on the Thai government to continue working on flood prevention with committed long-term planning.

They said that if flood concerns are removed, Thailand has an opportunity to attract Japanese investors looking to pull out of China because of the growing conflict between the two countries over disputed islands.

"This year's situation should be OK for industrial estates affected by last year's floods, but Japanese people are still concerned about next year and beyond," said Setsuo Iuchi, president of the Japanese External Trade Organisation (Jetro) in Bangkok.

"We would like to see long-term implementation of plans and budgeting, including a national consensus on planning from experts and ministries, exact year of implementation and communication in English to foreign investors," he said.

Mr Iuchi made his comments at the luncheon talks of the Thai-Japanese Association (TJA) where Supoj Tovichakchaikul, acting secretary-general of the Water and Flood Management Committee, explained the government's plans for this year and five years ahead.

Mr Supoj said almost all the industrial estates submerged during last year's floods are listed among protected areas this year. An exception is the financially ailing Saha Rattana Nakorn in Ayutthaya, but the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand has already talked with the estate owners about what must be done.

The government is welcoming proposals for water management projects from foreign investors by Nov 23. Starting next April, all such projects will be carried out over a five-year period, said Mr Supoj.

"If the 300-billion-baht budget set for flood and water management schemes is used over the next five years, there will be no more floods in Bangkok," he said. "This year, we confirm that there will be no floods because we can control the water, and the situation will be better next year."

Minoru Furusawa, president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce (JCC) in Bangkok, also urged the government to continue its flood-prevention work to fully restore investor confidence in Thailand.

"Generally, Japanese investors are looking to invest more in Asean," he said. "If the flood concern is gone, Thailand has advantages in terms of infrastructure when compared with other countries like Myanmar that Japanese investors are keen to invest in."

TJA president Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, who is also chairperson of Toshiba Thailand, said regional integration under the Asean Economic Community (AEC) will be a plus for Thailand to attract more investment from Japan, but flood issues must be properly addressed.

The opening of Myanmar and the Dawei project will also benefit Thailand, and the government should support such projects to draw more investment to the two countries, said Mrs Kobkarn.

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Writer: Nareerat Wiriyapong
Position: Business Reporter