Chatchart: People support megaprojects
- Published: 16/03/2013 at 04:04 PM
- Online news:
Ninety-one percent of the people who visited an exhibition on the government's planned megaprojects support the 2-trillion-baht spending programme, according to Transport Minister Chatchart Sithipan.
Transport Minister Chatchart Sithipan says many people support the government's the 2-trillion-baht spending programme. (Bangkok Post File Photo)
In addition, 95% of the visitors said they were satisfied by the information provided about the government's long-term development projects, he said on Saturday.
He said the feedback came from people who had visited "Thailand 2020: Thailand’s New Step to the World Expo", held at the Chaeng Watthana Government Complex. The event ended on Saturday.
Mr Chatchart admitted, however, that many of the visitors had expressed concerns about the development projects' transparency.
His ministry would take into account visitors' suggestions for measures to ensure corruption-free bidding and execution of the seven-year transport infrastructure and public works programme, he said.
The minister said foreign investors, including those from Japan, China, South Korea, France and Spain, had expressed interest in co-investing in infrastructure projects, particularly the high-speed rail network.
Opposition Leader Abhisit Vejjajiva was less upbeat about the megaprojects, although his Democrat Party supports the overall infrastructure overhaul plan in principle.
He said the Pheu Thai government was basing its spending and borrowing plans on assumptions of a solid recovery in the global economy, which would benefit Thailand.
After listening to a speech earlier in the day in Bangkok by Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, Mr Abhisit said Pheu Thai's optimism may be misplaced.
The projections by the former World Bank chief economist and adviser to Bill Clinton were totally opposite those of the government, he said.
Opposition Leader Abhisit Vejjajiva: Be careful of heavy borrowing. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)
He said Mr Stiglitz foresaw that the world would continue to face several problems and the global economy would not grow as much as earlier expected. The biggest problem would continue to be high unemployment in the developed world.
In such a climate, the government’s plan to borrow 2 trillion baht for the infrastructure overhaul would put Thailand in a risky position, said Mr Abhisit.
The Democrats support the need for infrastructure development but oppose the plan to acquire huge amounts of loans to finance the projects. The government instead should budget funds each year from its normal annual fiscal budget, Mr Abhisit said.
However, Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong insisted that the investments would help stabilise Thailand's economy.
Mr Kittiratt, who is also deputy premier in charge of economic policy, said the recent upgrade of the country's credit rating to BBB+ by Fitch Ratings reflected growing confidence in Thailand's economic and political stability.
The government's long-term investment plans have also increased confidence among Thai and foreign investors, he said on the "Yingluck Government Meets the People" programme on NBT on Saturday.
The programme was held at the Chaeng Watthana Government Complex where the megaproject exhibition was staged.
No government in the past had moved to invest in high-speed trains and rail systems on such a large scale before, said Mr Kittiratt.
The two-trillion-baht investment bill has already passed screening procedures and been approved by the National Economic and Social Development Board, he added.
Mr Kittiratt rebutted claims that heavy borrowing to fund the megaprojects would sharply increase public debt, saying the borrowing would be phased so that debt remained below 50% of gross domestic product.
Public debt is currently around 45% of GDP and policymakers for years have set a ceiling of 60%. Debt levels in some of the troubled countries in Europe are well above 100% of GDP.
The Thailand Development Research Institute, an independent think-tank, has said public debt could reach 70-80% of GDP if populist spending by the government continues as currently planned.
Mr Kittiratt disagreed, adding that a debt ratio of 50% of GDP was not high and the government would be able to repay the money within a few decades.
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