B200bn Southern Corridor plan gets nod
The cabinet has approved in principle the Southern Economic Corridor (SEC), a scheme to link the Andaman Sea, the Gulf of Thailand and countries along the Indian Ocean rim.
The SEC is estimated to cost at least 200 billion baht, which will mostly be spent on transport links in four provinces, namely Chumphon, Ranong, Surat Thani and Nakhon Si Thammarat, according to Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak.
Mr Somkid stated that the provinces were chosen first because they complement each other in terms of their location.
"The South is the most fertile region but has low GDP per head due to scattered, non-unified development which lacked strategic planning in the past," he added.
Under the scheme, the two coasts will be connected by a new railway running from Nakhon Pathom, Hua Hin and Prachuap Khiri Khan to Chumphon, which will be completed in 2020. The government also plans to add a route to Ranong, where plans are in action to make it a hub for ocean transit links with the Bay of Bengal.
Mr Somkid said this sea link will facilitate trade between countries in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) and those in Bimstec (The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation), which consists of Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Bhutan.
During the meeting, the private sector proposed 28 projects totalling over 200 billion baht, 80% of which are already being undertaken by the Ministry of Transport, according to Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith.
For the southern region, the Ministry of Transport has allotted 83.3 billion for the third phase of railway projects, 43 billion for 17 road projects, 1.33 billion for airports, 628 million for the port in Ranong and 228 million for marine projects.
Vice Chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce Watana Thanasakcharoen said he was satisfied with the outcome and thanked the prime minister for taking the time to go through the details of each proposed project.
In the meeting, which lasted two and a half hours, Mr Watana said the projects will be sped up after having been left hanging for over 10 years.
In a related development, the cabinet also approved the transfers of 21 high ranking officials. The appointment will become effective from Oct 1.
Among them is Anan Suwannarat, the Rice Department director-general, will become the new permanent secretary for agriculture.
Chaiwat Thongkamkoon, the director-general of the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning, will be the next permanent secretary for transport.
Deputy permanent secretary for public health Dr Thares Karasnairaviwong has been appointed the new secretary-general of the Food and Drug Administration.
Deputy permanent secretary for public health Dr Panpimol Wipulakorn is set to be the new Health Department director-general.