South to get special economic zone

South to get special economic zone

Cabinet agrees to B19bn spending plan

Narathiwat: The cabinet on Tuesday approved in principle a proposal to develop a special economic zone (SEZ) in Songkhla's Chana district using a budget of almost 19 billion baht.

Ratchada Thanadirek, a deputy government spokeswoman, said the decision to set up the SEZ in the district is in line with the government's initiative to expand its model city project as the deep South does not have an industrial estate despite its large workforce.

The SEZ project, estimated to cost 18.68 billion baht, includes the redevelopment of Nathap, Talingchan and Sakom tambons, a water transport network, a deep-sea port, new roads, and a power plant using natural gas, biomass or other renewable energy sources.

The project, covering 16,753 rai of land, is expected to create 100,000 jobs in six sectors: agricultural/light industry; heavy industry; electricity-generation with a total capacity of 3,700 megawatts; downstream industries related to port services; warehouses and distribution centres; and one-stop-services and residential areas.

Ms Ratchada said the cabinet had given the nod to the land management proposal for the development of the special economic zone in Narathiwat.

Under the plan, the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC) will purchase 1,683 rai of land under a budget of 390 million baht and part of the land will be leased to the private sector.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday agreed with a proposal to upgrade the management of nine border checkpoints for the three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat to promote cross-border trade.

The plan was submitted at a joint meeting between the cabinet and the business sector on economic and social development for the deep South. The meeting, chaired by the prime minister, took place on the sidelines of the mobile cabinet meeting here.

Under the proposal floated by the SBPAC, Sungai Kolok and Bukehta checkpoints would become centres of cross-border transportation of goods between Thailand and Malaysia.

Gen Prayut stressed border checkpoints should only be closed when necessary to avoid affecting cross-border trade and transport and suggested that business matching events for local and foreign business operators should be promoted.

The prime minister also said road and rail development projects in the region were expected to boost tourist arrivals and the local economy in conjunction with the commercial launch of Yala International Airport scheduled for the middle of this year.

In the pipeline is a four-lane road expansion project, development of routes linking the region's special economic zone with border checkpoints, and upgrades to Highway 410 and Highway 4326.

The business community also submitted proposals calling on the government to increase production capacity for the agricultural sector, promote the food and agricultural processing industries, stimulate trade and investments, and improve public health services and water management systems.

Gen Prayut welcomed the proposals while noting that it was important to strike a balance between supply and demand for farm products. As for trade and investments, a number of measures would be introduced to attract new investments, he said.

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