Elections 'not set to derail' EEC
Government looks to allay investor doubt
The government has informed foreign companies through their respective embassies that the flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) will carry on as planned, regardless of whether a general election takes place next February or results in a new direction.
The assurances come as the government scrambles to increase foreign investors' flagging confidence.
The government Thursday held a representative briefing titled "The EEC: Taking Off" with foreign ambassadors, consular agents and diplomatic agents from 55 countries in attendance.
Many related agencies joined the event, including the Industry Ministry, the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the EEC Office and the Board of Investment (BoI).
Kobsak Pootrakool, the Prime Minister's Office minister, said the government aims to allay fears about the EEC scheme, with many investors concerned about a postponement of the scheme because of the vagaries of the next election.
The government said the corridor will not be delayed because the 2018 EEC Act has been implemented and related investment laws have been amended.
"Many foreign countries are worried about the Thai political situation affecting the much-touted EEC scheme, because the new administration may put off the project," Mr Kobsak said.
He said it is therefore important to speed up the process to make sure all of the projects are finalised before the general election in February so that the projects will not be scrapped by the new government.
Mr Kobsak said the government is speeding up eight major infrastructure projects in the EEC provinces and it plans to announce the terms of reference for all of them by 2018.
Those projects are a high-speed railway connecting three airports, a maintenance repair and overhaul facility at U-tapao airport, expansion of the ports at Laem Chabang and Map Ta Phut, and the smart city initiatives of the EEC of Innovation and the EEC of Digital.
Mr Kobsak said the government has already set up the EEC Office to ensure the continuity of the projects and work as the main organisation in administering the schemes in the corridor.
But while he has high hopes that these projects will sail through, Mr Kobsak said the current government will not interfere with the decisions of a new government.
"When the election is held, we will not intervene in the affairs of the next government," he said.
Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana said the government plans to develop the country through its Thailand 4.0 scheme.
The EEC project is part of that plan to make Thailand's economy driven by innovation, attracting greater investment. The corridor follows the Eastern Seaboard Development scheme from the 1980s.
Mr Uttama said the government will hold roadshows abroad to promote the EEC, aiming to meet more than 100 companies in Britain and France.
In France, government representatives will meet with Airbus after the company last year signed a memorandum of understanding to invest in and develop the maintenance repair and overhaul in U-tapao airport.
"Both firms are conducting a feasibility study for the project," Mr Uttama said.
Kanit Sangsubhan, secretary-general of the EEC Office, said Britain and France are home to targeted investors, and the next roadshows will be held in Japan, South Korea and China.
"The Thai government wants to promote the maintenance repair and overhaul centre at U-tapao airport as an Asean regional hub, while we will meet with French high-speed railway companies to entice them to invest," he said.
Duangjai Asawachintachit, the BoI's secretary-general, said the government expects investment applications in 2018 to reach 720 billion baht, 300 billion of which are EEC-related.
The BoI registered 66 applications in the first quarter, an increase of 12% from the same period of last year.