Thailand touted as Asean hub
The government has vowed to promote Thailand as an investment hub for the Asean region, while redoubling efforts to attract Chinese investors to tap Thailand as a gateway to Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV), where the economies are growing.
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said the whole of Asean -- not just CLMV -- could boast of being rich in raw materials and labour, while also having extensive supply chains, with combined nominal GDP worth up to US$2.5 trillion.
"Thailand, in particular, is geographically located in the centre of Asean," Mr Somkid said yesterday in his keynote speech at the Sino-Thai Business Investment Forum 2016.
"But we're not complacent with that advantage. We're committed to upgrading Thailand as an Asean investment centre, by which Chinese investors could use Thailand as the gateway to other countries in the region, especially CLMV, and the world."
Mr Somkid said the government in recent years has done its best to restore political stability, laying down solid foundations for the country's long-term economic development while tackling issues such as income disparity and competitiveness.
"Over the past two years, the government has allocated 100 billion baht to reform the agricultural sector, support local businesses and tourism as well as infrastructure development," he said.
Mr Somkid noted the government had mainly focused development on three areas: manufacturing reform to increase value and promote innovation for the food, automotive, textiles, electronics, electrical appliances, and computer and components industries; infrastructure investment totalling $43 billion over the next five years, including motorways, airport and ports, mass rapid transit systems, double-track rail networks and a high-speed train project linking the North to the South and the East to the West; and the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC).
The corridor, which will run through Chon Buri, Rayong and Chachoengsao, has been designated for development as a high-tech industry cluster, with an eye towards becoming Asean's leading economic zone for industrial, infrastructure and urban development.
The project is meant to accommodate the 10 targeted industries being promoted as clusters by the government.
The EEC will also rely on developments in transport infrastructure, including air, land, rail and water links.
Thailand's economic growth is expected to accelerate to between 3.2% and 3.5% this year, largely fuelled by increased foreign investment and record-high tourism, he said.
The economy, which grew 2.8% in 2015, has been hit by slowing global growth and weak demand for exports, although tourism has remained a bright spot.
The cabinet in June approved in principle a minimum of 300 billion baht in state funds for the EEC's development, with the first phase focusing mainly on Map Ta Phut, Rayong and Laem Chabang and Chon Buri.