Foreign investors upbeat over Thailand's prospects
published : 19 Feb 2019 at 04:00
newspaper section: Business
writer: Phusadee Arunmas
Foreign investors are still confident about Thai economic prospects, but fret over the connectivity between the current government's flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) and related infrastructure developments, anti-corruption policy and the direction of free trade agreements (FTAs).
Stanley Kang, chairman of the Joint Foreign Chamber of Commerce of Thailand, said foreign businesses and investors are still interested in investing here, particularly in automation, to build up competitiveness.
"But the government should speed up major developments such as the EEC and the high-speed train network linking the three key airports as fast as possible," he said.
Endemic corruption remains a concern for foreign investors as it presents a hidden risk and cost to investment. The implementation of e-government will help reduce corruption within government agencies, said Mr Kang.
"Foreign investors are not looking at Thailand for the short term alone," he said. "The acceleration of planned megaprojects and participation in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership [CPTPP] as soon as possible will increase the country's competitiveness."
Mr Kang said foreign investors are also hopeful Thailand will rev up negotiations for new FTAs after the election, such as the Thai-EU FTA, to expand trade and investments.
Tsuyoshi Inoue, executive managing director of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce, Bangkok, said a survey of more than 200 Japanese companies in Thailand last week showed Japanese investors believe the Thai economy still has promising growth prospects for the next five years and new investment is expected to increase over the same period.
The survey also found Japanese investors remain concerned about the strong baht, the escalating trade war and Brexit.
They also want Thailand to join the CPTPP as well as other the FTAs such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Thai-EU FTA to increase competitiveness.
"FTAs will show Thailand's stance on open markets and attract foreign investments," Mr Tsuyoshi said.
Kalin Sarasin, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC), said most foreign investors are still upbeat about Thailand's economic outlook. Japanese investors in particular are keen on the EEC.
Last year, applications to the Board of Investment for foreign direct investment (FDI) from Japanese investors totalled 334 projects, or 32% of total FDI. The applications encompassed hybrid electrical vehicles, environment-friendly chemical products, electrical appliances, air-conditioner manufacturing, metal and auto parts.
The TCC forecasts GDP growth will move in a range of 4-4.3% this year, up from 4.1% last year, largely driven by exports, government spending and tourism.
Mr Kalin said businesses have been closely watching the impact of the ongoing China-US spat, global economic slowdown and strong baht.