Somkid: Full speed ahead
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak has called for state agencies to refrain from sitting idle for six months before the new government is installed to alleviate the impact from global uncertainties affecting the Thai economy.
The six-month period before the new government is set up is a crucial transition period, he said after chairing a meeting to expedite state enterprises' investment budget disbursement.
The US-China trade dispute is weighing on the local economy, making investment from state agencies and enterprises the main engine driving growth in the first half, said Mr Somkid.
The economy is expected to recover in the second half, he said.
The Finance Ministry's Fiscal Policy Office (FPO) predicts economic growth of 4% this year, down from the 4.1% forecast for 2018. The Bank of Thailand last December trimmed its growth forecast to 4% for this year from 4.2%.
"State agencies that have investment projects must not shift to neutral gear. If they do, I by myself will change gear as several months are left before the new government will be set up, probably in May or June," said Mr Somkid.
In the past, state officials often shifted to "neutral gear" -- meaning they did not function during transition periods to new governments.
He said Thailand is considered a hotspot for foreign investment.
Citing Japanese investors as an example, he said they view Thailand as an investment opportunity, with the Thailand 4.0 model and Eastern Economic Corridor setting the tone, but they need to see continuity in policy before making investment decisions.
Policy continuity is an important issue and Vietnam has gained an advantage over Thailand in this respect, given the political stability there, said Mr Somkid. Japanese investors are contemplating now relocating their plants from China to either Thailand or Vietnam.
State enterprises managed to take out 378 billion baht out of the 445-billion-baht investment budget for fiscal 2018, compared with 280 billion the previous fiscal year.
In terms of ratio, the fiscal 2018 investment budget disbursement accounted for 85% of the target, while the preceding year stood at 84%. State enterprises were ordered to draw down 395 billion baht worth of investment budget for fiscal 2019.