THE nation’s top planning agency has stressed the importance of continuity on the development of special economic zones (SEZs) – including the flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) – by an incoming government.
The National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC), which is closing in on the completion of the 12th National Economic and Social Development Plan (NESDP), made clear that these zones were vital for the country’s economic performance.
“We expect the economy to continue to strengthen, as long as the development of the EEC is continued after the upcoming election,” said Thosaporn Sirisumphand, secretary general of the NESDC, at a press conference yesterday.
“The development plan should be completed and submitted to the new government as soon as it is formed after the election.”
The EEC covers the provinces of Chon Buri, Chachoengsao and Rayong, and is aimed at promoting the so-called S-curve industries. The projects envisaged range from the construction of high-speed railways to the development of airports and innovation hubs.
At the news conference, some details of the development plan were revealed, with a key chapter focusing on the development of SEZs. The NESDC said that up to Bt310 billion was invested in the EEC last year.
NESDC officials also recommended that other SEZs be developed.
“The development of the Southern Economic Corridor is also highly important for the Thai economy. The region is expected to see an inflow of industrial investments valued at up to Bt200 billion in the next 10 years,” said Danucha Pichayanan, deputy secretary general of the NESDC.
To foster further growth, Thosaporn called for an incoming government to step up the efforts under way for closer ties with other Asean countries.
“As the Asean chair, Thailand should bring key development issues to the table, such as improving the human resource capabilities in the region to adapt to Industry 4.0 and increase trade connectivity with Asean countries to cope with the negative impacts of the trade war,” he told reporters in an interview on the sidelines of the event.
The 12th NESDP will state that Thailand should continue to strive to become the centre of the Asean region via enhancing trade connectivity and regional corporation such as through infrastructure connectivity and cooperation on criminal justice matters.
In a separate event yesterday, the Commerce Ministry’s Trade Policy and Strategy Office (TPSO) reported that the Kingdom’s exports rebounded in February, increasing 5.9 per cent year on year to US$21 billion. Exports to the Asean region grew 2.8 per cent, in accordance with the NESDC’s plan to increase trade with the Asean region.
Thailand’s export performance coincides with those of other Asian countries, which share similar challenges including the slowdown in global trade, the US-China trade war and the downward trend in commodity prices, according to Pimchanok Vonkorpon, the TPSO’s director-general.
Thosaporn agrees with Pimchanok’s assessment, though adds that exports may face further difficulties in 2019 and the coming years, largely due to the superpower trade war, uncertainties arising from Britain’s departure from the European Union and the global slowdown.
The NESDC predicts that the value of exports will grow 4.1 per cent in 2019. Thosaporn said that due to various external factors, particularly the trade war, the NESDC may have to make adjustments to its forecasts.
However, he declined to elaborate on the extent of possible adjustments, saying that NESDC will continue to “wait and see” if the external threats to Thai exports worsen.