Suriya: Protests not derailing FDI

Suriya: Protests not derailing FDI

Foreign investors fear pandemic the most

Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit
Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit

The student-led protests against the government will not seriously affect the domestic economy as foreign investors view them as a short-term event, less frightening than the pandemic, says Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit.

He said people in the business world understand the political dispute and expect the government to be able to cope with the situation.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha decided to lift the state of emergency last week and other related orders in Bangkok as the government softened its stance against pro-democracy protesters, who are demanding Gen Prayut step down.

Authorities also agreed to discuss the street rallies during an extraordinary parliamentary session that started on Monday, hoping to solve the conflict between the protesters and the Prayut administration, which has been accused of prolonging power following the 2014 coup.

Mr Suriya said many companies from Japan and Europe with business in Thailand will continue investment expansion plans, while new foreign investors planning high-tech ventures in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) will also shrug off the protests.

The EEC, which spans Chon Buri, Rayong and Chachoengsao provinces, is set to be a new high-tech industrial hub in the country.

"Demonstrations in Thailand will not be a significant factor pushing investors to change their minds about investment in the EEC," he said on Monday during a seminar on investment prospects in the corridor.

Many foreign companies are familiar with political conflicts as they have run businesses in Thailand for many decades, said Mr Suriya.

The minister recently talked with foreign business people who want to invest in EEC and elsewhere. Most of them did not express grave concerns over the political situation.

He said Japanese companies, which make up the largest share of foreign investment in the country, are maintaining their business plans.

From January to August this year, investors have applied for investment privileges for 277 projects in the EEC, with total investment worth 106 billion baht, said Mr Suriya, citing the latest update from the Board of Investment (BoI).

"The investment value accounts for 51% of overall investment applications made to the BoI," said Mr Suriya.

The government earlier announced it plans to begin construction of 2.3 billion baht worth of infrastructure for the Smart Park industrial estate project in Rayong in the first quarter next year, speeding up work to build Thailand's first high-tech industrial complex to serve 12 targeted S-curve industries.

Business people, he said, are more afraid of the spread of the virus, which shows no signs of abating in many countries. The pandemic has dealt a heavy blow to the global economy.

"Investors hope a vaccine for Covid-19 will be found as soon as possible to the relieve the impact on global businesses," said Mr Suriya.

In another development, he said Texas-based ExxonMobil Corporation recently met the government concerning its 330-billion-baht investment in the ethylene cracker and refinery expansion project in Sri Racha, Chon Buri.

"The firm may revise its investment plan," said Mr Suriya, adding the company's consultant is reconsidering the path forward.

In August 2020, ExxonMobil announced it would delay the project because of the pandemic.

"ExxonMobile has been affected by low consumption of fuel and petrochemicals," he said.

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