EEC investment set to exceed forecast
OSAKA: Thailand's investment is expected to grow by 10% in 2020, largely driven by outlays to the government's flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC).
Kanit Sangsubhan, secretary-general of the EEC Office, said investment in the corridor is expected to become vibrant in 2020, with the growth rate likely far higher than projections by state agencies.
The National Economic and Social Development Council, formerly the National Economic and Social Development Board, forecasts the country's overall investment to grow 5.1% this year, higher than the 4.5% growth forecast by the Bank of Thailand, up from an estimated 3.6% in 2018 and 0.9% in 2017.
Mr Kanit said 2020 investment growth will largely stem from five key infrastructure projects in the EEC, which is expected to begin operation by the middle of this year.
The five projects are a high-speed railway linking three airports (225 billion baht); U-tapao aviation city (290 billion); a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) centre (10.6 billion); the third phase of Laem Chabang seaport (114 billion); and the third phase of Map Ta Phut seaport (55.4 billion).
Mr Kanit said those five main projects in the EEC will move forward as planned, with the winning bidders expected to become available before April.
The Board of Investment (BoI) reported last month that applications filed for promotional privileges amounted to 902 billion baht for 2018, 43% higher than in the previous year.
Some 84% of the applications were in the government's targeted industries, including digital healthcare, petrochemical and robotics, with a total value of 758 billion baht.
Applications in new S-curve industries such as digital, medical, petrochemical, robotics and space totalled 539 billion baht, while those in the first S-curve grouping fetched 219 billion, mostly in the farming/bioeconomy, smart electronics, smart automotive, tourism and food industries.
Applications in the EEC dipped slightly from 436 projects in 2017 to 422 projects in 2018, but the total investment for the applications rose to 684 billion baht from 288 billion in 2017.
Mr Kanit said the EEC project is instrumental in driving economic growth this year and next and will help offset the negative impact of the ongoing trade row between the US and China.
"The trade war will definitely slow world economic growth," he said. "However, the EEC project helps offset such impact."
He said tourism in the EEC is also expected to help contribute to the economy in the long term, with the number of tourists expected to double to 51.3 million by 2037.
Many investors from Japan, China and the EU are keen on expanding their investment in the EEC, with 24 French companies having recently visited the region to witness the EEC development plan and eyeing investment in the smart city, defence industry and human resource development.
Mr Kanit assured Japanese investors that the EEC will continue after the March 24 general election because the corridor's development is legally bound by the EEC law, which requires the next government to carry out EEC development.
He said a study to expand the EEC project to cover additional provinces such as Samut Prakan, Sa Kaeo, Prachin Buri, Chanthaburi and Trat, in addition to the existing three eastern provinces of Chachoengsao, Chon Buri and Rayong, is likely to conclude by mid-year.