Somkid eyes post-election economic leap
Thailand's economy will make a big leap after the general election on March 24 and Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha will return as prime minister, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak told 2,000 investors on Monday.
The poll will not be delayed again and democracy will be restored, he said, adding that investors have expressed concern whether the policies of the incumbent government will be continued.
"I am very confident Gen Prayut will [return to power] to continue the mission, and you [investors] will be able to participate in shaping Thailand's future," Mr Somkid told a group of local and foreign investors at an event dubbed "Thailand Investment Year: Transforming Challenges into Opportunities". It was organised by the Board of Investment.
The Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) is one key project that must be continued, Mr Somkid said.
He described the government's performance over the past four or five years as "outstanding".
Five years ago, Thailand found itself plunged into social conflict and chaos. The country was even dubbed "the sick man of Asia", he said.
But Gen Prayut brought peace and this was the real reason he decided to take power, Mr Somkid said.
Since he assumed power, Thailand has undergone major structural change to emerge as a leading investment destination, he said.
International ties have been restored and many infrastructure-related and social development projects implemented, he said.
"Amid all the daydreams [of other parties' political campaigns], the government's achievements are real and concrete," Mr Somkid said.
"Thai people are not stupid. They saw what happened over time so I'm confident Gen Prayut will certainly make a comeback."
The deputy prime minister listed several "promising" factors that would drive the economy forward in 2019. It grew 4.1% in 2018, compared to average annual growth of 0.9% over the previous five years, he said.
Inflation stands at just 1% while the current account surplus is 7% to GDP, foreign reserve accounts have risen to US$200 billion, and the share of public debt to GDP is below 45%, he added.
The economy is still heavily export dependent, relying on overseas shipments to make up 70% of its revenue, but the situation is slowly starting to balance out, he said.
The World Bank agrees the economy is seeing steady growth and is showing signs of greater flexibility despite a global slowdown, Mr Somkid noted.
The deputy premier also hailed the recent opening of a Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Bangkok, which he said would help to forge stronger links between Thailand and China, especially the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.