April 04, 2014 00:00 By Pichaya Changsorn
The Board of Investment is confident it can quickly approve over Bt660 billion worth of investment applications shelved due to the political crisis, caretaker Industry Minister Prasert Boonchaisuk said yesterday.
Speaking at a press conference, Prasert said the members list for the new BoI main board would shortly be submitted to caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra for approval.
After the appointments, Prasert said the new board would hasten its meetings to approve all of the more than 400 large investment projects with a combined investment value of over Bt660 billion within the following three to four months.
The minister's announcement came after the Council of State and the Election Committee ensured the legitimacy of the new BoI board. The terms of the member of the previous board expired last October.
Prasert, who sits on the BoI main board due to being Industry Ministry, also confirmed 10 car-makers had submitted applications to invest in the Eco-car phase two programme following the submission period expiri9ng on March 31.
According to BoI's official statement, the 10 companies will together invest more than Bt138.8 billion to produce 1,581,000 units per annum of energy-efficient, international-standard small cars by 2019.
They include five makers that have joined in the first phase - Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Suzuki and Mitsubishi - that will add 828,000 annual units under phase two for a combined investment of Bt52.08 billion.
The five newcomers will produce a total of 753,000 vehicles for a total investment of Bt86.81 billion.
Prasert said the interest in the Eco-car was larger than anticipated, with the government expecting six or seven car-makers to take part in the second phase.
"This reflects the potential of Thailand and the confidence of investors that the country is still a global automobile hub that will yield benefits to related industries such as the local automotive parts industry," he said.
The minister said the interest in Eco-car phase two bode well for the country's goal of producing three million automobiles per annum by 2017.
BoI secretary general Udom Wongviwatchai said a working committee, to be chaired by the permanent secretary of the Industry Ministry, would be set up to consider details related to the conditions and criteria of the Eco-car 2 scheme that the BoI had already made public.
Udom said that included the vehicle's standards, manufacturing conditions and excise tax levy, with the committee's forwarding its recommendations to a BoI subcommittee and its main board. All of these processes were expected to be completed within the next three to four months, he said.
Udom said some car-makers, especially the newcomers to the scheme, would start up their projects before the 2019 dateline. Of the total production capacity, 60-70 per cent were expected to be exported.
However, two senior automobile industry executives who spoke with The Nation yesterday said there remained high uncertainty whether these 10 car-makers would proceed with their phase two investment projects.
"Some of them are just putting their fingers into the pie," said one source who requested for anonymously.
"There are still many more things for them to consider. The number one [factor] is [Thai] politics."
The BoI declined to reveal the names of the five newcomers to the scheme.
Earlier reports suggested Ford, General Motors, Mazda, Volkswagen, and China’s MG were the five new participants.
Ford and GM have issued statements confirming their participation in the project.
Suraphong Phaisitphatthanaphong, spokesperson for the Federation of Thai Industries' Automobile Club, said the interest from the 10 car-makers to join phase two had confirmed the confidence of investors on the readiness and strength of the Thai automotive industry and reflected that they understood the political situation was a short-term turbulence.