THE country’s new batch of economic ministers got to work yesterday on plans to build on the growth momentum in the economy.
On the first full day in their new posts, the energy minister vowed to expedite the bidding for two petroleum exploration and production fields, Erawan and Bongkot, while the deputy minister for transport will focus on infrastructure projects for the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC).
For the energy sector, Siri Jirapongphan marked out four urgent tasks, including the hastened action for the Erawan and Bongkot fields to be opened to bidding in order to ensure the
country's energy security. The concessions on both fields expire in 2022-23.
All the involved parties - including Chevron, PTT Exploration and Production, PTT, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand and state agencies - will meet to find common ground and enable to a proposal to be put to the Cabinet for consideration.
“The bidding for the Erawan and Bongkot fields should be done early in a order to avoid the wrong signal going out, as they are important gas fields for the country,” said Siri, who was a former executive director at the Petroleum Institute of Thailand.
“If Thailand cannot impart confidence on this or leave investors unclear on the direction, that would be seen as a wrong sign for the country's petroleum management.”
The new minister also asked for an additional week for the discussions with the related parties to finalise the direction for the implementation of coal-fired power plants in Krabi and Songkhla provinces, while paying regard to the impacts and safety of people living in the surrounding areas.
In regard to biodiesel, Siri said he would work with the related agencies to boost the industry’s sustainability. He also plans to discuss possible options with the Commerce Ministry for countering the low prices for palm oil.
He aims to drive forward the country's Energy 4.0 policy, focusing on innovation in the energy industry to add value to the economy and mesh with the broader goals of the Thailand 4.0 vision.
In another sector, the newly appointed Deputy Transport Minister Pailin Chuchottaworn will steer the development of infrastructure projects under the ambitions for the EEC, which is at the heart of the Thailand 4.0 policy.
Progress on the EEC directly affects Thailand’s economic growth, he said, as the zone – including the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate - was expected to contribute about 20-30 per cent of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP).
If assigned to be responsible for State Railway of Thailand, Pailin said that he would drive forward the Smart Cities project, which focuses on environmental friendly cities with clean energy in areas near the stations for double-track railways, the skytrain and high-speed trains.
The new Tourism and Sports Minister, Weerasak Kowsurat, began his first day in the post with senior officials in the department. He later said he would seek continuity with existing projects while promoting tourism in more local areas.
In regard to sports, the minister said attention would be paid to Thai food and its application for sports nutrition, alongside efforts to promote the sports industry as a source of income and for its health benefits.