Prayut: Zones vital for growth
The government has vowed to step up development of the local economy, tourism and special economic zones to drive Thailand's future economic growth.
Speaking on Wednesday at the annual meeting of the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC), Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the government has been pursuing a 20-year national strategy (2017-37) for local economy development and accelerating vital infrastructure projects and special economic zones such as the flagship Eastern Economic Corridor.
The government initiated the Southern Economic Corridor to spur economic growth in southern Thailand, promoted cooperation with neighbouring countries via the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy and pushed tourism connectivity with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, Gen Prayut said.
The government has also promoted linkage with China's Belt and Road scheme, which will create an opportunity for Thailand because 45% of the global population is in Asean, India and China, the prime minister said.
More importantly, he insisted that the 12th national economic and social development plan (2017-21) will specifically aim to expand economic prosperity and opportunities across the region and upgrade key economic cities nationwide, as well as create new economic cities as part of local economy development.
Thosaporn Sirisamphand, secretary-general of the NESDC, said the government plans for the tourism sector to contribute 30% of the country's GDP by 2030, up from about 20% this year.
"Tourism in the very near future will become an even larger component of the economy," he said. "The development will be based on the requirements of each region. For instance, the road and rail development along the Gulf of Thailand to link the Andaman Sea via Chumphon to Ranong is needed for the Southern Economic Corridor scheme."
Chaiwat Thongkhamkoon, the transport permanent secretary, said that over the next 5-6 years the nationwide transport network, particularly the rail system, will be upgraded.
Twelve double-track rail projects under construction are expected to extend the rail network by 2,419 kilometres from the current 3,157km.
Four high-speed rail projects with a combined 1,208km will be completed during the period. They are the Sino-Thai rail network linking Bangkok with Nakhon Ratchasima; a project linking three key airports; a line between Bangkok and Phitsanulok; and the second phase of Sino-Thai rail network linking Nakhon Ratchasima with Nong Khai.