Private sector urges drive in border trade
Provincial business leaders are calling on authorities and the caretaker government to boost border trade, as trading activities along border areas have hardly been affected by the political turmoil in Bangkok.
“Border trade still has a bright prospect, with growth estimated at 10-20% this year as it’s far from the centre of protests,’’ said Phamorn Chaosirikul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce in Mukdahan. “We foresee border trade with Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia more than doubling each year if infrastructure connectivity is well developed.”
Last year, border trade brought in 1 trillion baht, a rise of 16 % from a year earlier.
But Mr Phamon insisted the new government should be set up as soon as possible to tackle economic problems and pursue infrastructure development.
“Although political protests haven’t affected border trade this year, a delay in the government’s investments in the transportation network, and roads along the border towns will affect local economies,’’ he said.
If the new government could not be formed with the next three months, he said, the economy is likely to contract this year and in the year to come.
The border trade with Laos and Vietnam via Mukdahan this year is projected to grow by 10% a year from 120 billion baht in 2013. The growth rate should exceed 20% a year if the government invests in road improvement, border town development, and loosens cross-border trade regulations. Border trade via Mukdahan mostly consists of consumer products, copper and electronic parts.
Mr Phamon also suggested that the new government, once installed, should construct roads along the Mekong River, while communities be developed to promote tourism and sell local products.
Boontham Thipprasong, chairman of Chiang Rai’s Chamber of Commerce, added that the road in Chiang Rai and nearby provinces should be upgraded to four lanes to accommodate the flourishing trade and tourism boosted by the opening of the fourth Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge across the Mekong last year.
The bridge links Chiang Rai’s Chiang Khong district with Huay Sai town and Bokeo province in northern Laos. It also facilitates the transport of cargo from Thailand to China along Route R3, which links Laos to Xishuangbanna and Yunnan province in China. The new bridge will also increase traffic through Chiang Khong, particularly of Chinese tourists.
Somporn Siribhorananont, chairman of Songkhla’s Chamber of Commerce, said the most important issue is to set up the new government, develop infrastructure, and then address the violence in the southernmost provinces.
‘’What Thailand needs most now is the new government to be formed to run the country and continue infrastructure investments as well as revive consumer and investor confidence,’’ he said.