Plan to take full advantage lacking
Even with massive investment allocated to build infrastructure in Thailand and neighbouring countries, the government realises it still lacks a plan to use the developments to maximum potential.
Setting up new economic zones and improving services such as customs clearance for the private sector can maximise value from new infrastructure, cabinet ministers said recently.
Ministers said the Transport Ministry and Customs Department should speed up facilitation of goods transport and tourism procedures, while the Information and Communications Technology Ministry has to develop IT to support the movement of goods and services.
Thailand wants to establish economic zones in Tak’s Mae Sot district and a long-delayed Chiang Saen economic zone in Chiang Rai on the border with Laos.
The National Economic and Social Development Board told the cabinet the third Thailand-Laos bridge linking Nakhon Phanom and Kham Muan in Laos was expected to be completed this year. Thailand allocated 1.76 billion baht.
A fourth bridge linking Chiang Khong in Chiang Rai with Huay Xai in Laos will be ready late next year under the auspices of the Greater Mekong Subregion.
Vachara Kannikar, the deputy government spokesman, said the fourth bridge costs 1.4 billion baht, equally funded by the Thai and Chinese governments. It will link Thailand and southern China via Laos with a 245-kilometre road.
Mr Vachara said Thailand, Laos and China need agreements on goods in transit to ensure no inspections of goods bound to China. The framework agreement will need parliamentary reading and the signing is set for this year.
There is also an initial study to build a 33-km road from Phudu in Uttaradit to Paklai in Xaiyabouri province of Laos, in which the Thai government will provide a soft loan to Laos for construction. The Phudu temporary checkpoint will be upgraded to permanent.
The government also asked the Transport Ministry to help oversee construction of the 684-million-baht Highway 11 along a 25-30-km stretch between Baan Thadthong to Sangthong along the Mekong River in Laos. It will link to Nong Khai for tourism purposes. Thailand has agreed to pay 30% of construction costs and provide soft loans for the rest.