The government will focus on a three-pronged strategy for infrastructure development in Thailand to enhance connectivity with the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), says Transport Minister Chadchat Sittipunt.
Speaking at the Greater Mekong Investment Forum, Mr Chadchat said the development strategy entails developing basic domestic infrastructure, providing funding for infrastructure development in neighbouring countries and enhancing cultural exchanges.
The government's 2-trillion-baht infrastructure scheme, mainly in the transport sector including roads and high-speed trains, is part of developing domestic infrastructure and improving cross-border linkage with neighbouring countries, said the minister.
Thailand, meanwhile, will assist Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar in developing road links in two approaches.
The first approach is by extending financial support to these countries. For instance, Thailand will fund a road link between Tak's Mae Sot district and Mawlamyine, Myanmar at an estimated cost of 1 billion baht to boost logistics efficiency and economic activities along the East-West Economic Corridor.The second approach is to set up a joint venture among neighbouring nations.
For example, the Thai and Chinese governments are equally funding the fourth Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge, which links Chiang Rai's Chiang Khong district in the North to Laos and Yunnan province in southern China.
The Neighboring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency (Neda) has also provided loans with a low interest rate to develop roads in Cambodia and Laos, said Mr Chadchat.
Cultural exchange also plays an important role in improving connectivity between Thailand and neighbouring countries, he said, citing the film Lost in Thailand as a channel to help attract more Chinese tourists to Thailand.
Mr Chadchat said the Cross Border Transportation Agreement in principle should serve as rules and regulations for cross-border trade among GMS countries but is not yet in place since Thailand and Myanmar have yet to amend their border trade rules and regulations.
The cabinet, meanwhile, still has to amend articles regarding taxation and cross-border shipments, he said, adding that bilateral agreements can be a solution in reviewing border trade rules and regulations.
Cross-border trade between Thailand and its neighbours reached US$10.4 billion in the first four months of this year. The figure was estimated at $30 billion in fiscal 2012.
Representatives from Thailand and Myanmar are expected to sign an agreement next Monday to enhance the development of the Dawei deep-sea port project, said Prime Minister's Office Minister Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisan.
Thailand's Neda and Myanmar's Foreign Economic Relations Development Department will ratify the agreement to improve mutual cooperation on project development.
The two countries have set up a special-purpose vehicle (SPV) to manage phases of development of the port and the special economic zone.
Besides Thailand and Myanmar, Japan has expressed an interest in joining the SPV, said Mr Niwatthamrong.
Industrial estates for light and medium-sized industries such as garments will be developed as part of the first phase of the Dawei project, expected to be completed in five years.
About the author
- Writer: Pathom Sangwongwanich
Position: Business Reporter