GMS countries to focus on priority projects today

national December 20, 2014 01:00

By Petchanet Pratruangkrai

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The leaders of countries in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) will today propose a plan for further investment in priority development projects worth US$30 billion (Bt986 billion), as part of a 10-year development plan worth $51.3 billion.

They will also agree to work toward establishing a harmonised system for investment laws and a common business identity, in order to encourage member states and their private sectors to take part in the investment programme.
Agreement to pursue these goals came yesterday on the first day of the “Fifth GMS Summit” in Bangkok, attended by the six member countries’ delegations and private-sector representatives. 
The meeting – which takes place every three years – concludes today, when each of the countries’ leaders will attend.
The GMS comprises Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, China and Thailand.
Deputy Transport Minister Akom Termpitayapaisit said GMS members agreed to select priority projects for a five-year investment programme, with more than 90 per cent of them being infrastructure and transportation development projects.
They also agreed to tighten cooperation in the trading of electricity, in order to promote economic growth and create closer links among Greater Mekong nations.
Akom, who is also secretary-general of the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), said the meeting also agreed to support use of the public-private partnership (PPP) model to encourage private enterprises to invest in GMS development projects. 
Member states also discussed ways to source the investment budget, which they said should not be funded solely by international institutions such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and governments, but also by the private sector within the GMS.
The meeting also agreed to encourage private enterprises in the six countries to expand cooperation and businesses opportunities in agricultural and agro-industry businesses, as every member state still mainly relied on its agricultural sector.
Between 40 per cent and 60 per cent of the gross domestic product of each member state comes from agriculture.
In addition, member states discussed cross-border rules and regulations, many of which should be reduced or eliminated with a view to facilitating more GMS trade and investment growth.
They also discussed human-resource issues, in particular the development of skilled labour to serve trade and investment growth in the sub-region. 
The plan to encourage harmonisation was proposed by business representatives and government officials to promote the private sector participation in development projects.
This is because only 30 per cent of funding for the investment programme would come from the ADB and the World Bank, while about 70 per cent would require funding from member states themselves, third countries or the private sector, Oudet Souvannavong, secretary-general of the GMS Business Forum said.
He said the plan to set up a harmonised legal environment and common identity for private enterprises would be further discussed soon after the GMS leaders’ meeting, which should come up with a consensus on encouraging use of the PPP model – and on which laws and aspects of the business environment should be harmonised.
As to priority GMS projects, NESDB deputy secretary-general Porametee Vimolsiri said Thailand highlighted the construction of a motorway linking Bang Yai and Kanchanaburi, to help links from Laem Chabang deep-sea port to Bangkok and Dawei in Myanmar, at a cost of about $2 billion. 
Other key projects for Thailand are an energy project entailing an investment of $281.9 million, a $212.5-million agricultural project and a $158.39-million environmental project.
Porametee said although the global economy had not yet clearly recovered, it should not affect infrastructure projects by GMS countries. 
He said China would play a key role in supporting many investment projects in the sub-region, as they could link many of its own infrastructure-development projects.
China is also trying to set up the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which should play a key role in supporting investment in Mekong countries, the official said.

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