Big projects 'crucial' to Thai future
Pridiyathorn urges new govt to save economy By Anucha Charoenpo
Former deputy prime minister Pridiyathorn Devakula yesterday urged decisive action by the next government to push ahead with mega-projects that he says are crucial to rescue Thailand from a sluggish economy.
Trouble lies ahead for exporters, mainly due to decreasing demand from the United States, Thailand's major export destination, said M.R. Pridiyathorn. He pinned hopes on public and private spending to prevent the Thai economy from further slipping.
Consumer confidence in the US is down since it was hit by a loan crisis in the property sector, he said. The aftershocks caused stock markets around the world, including in Thailand, to tumble.
M.R. Pridiyathorn said after the election, tentatively set for Dec 23, the prime minister must display courage in turning infrastructure projects from blueprints into reality.
Key projects he identified were mass transit lines and the expansion of the eastern and southern seaboards.
These would be a magnet to woo foreigners to invest in the country, he told Thailand's Future forum, organised by MCOT Plc and FM 96.5 radio.
M.R. Pridiyathorn left his post as Bank of Thailand governor in October to join the government as deputy premier and finance minister, but quit in February.
He said he was disappointed the government of Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont was slow in pushing ahead with the mass transit line projects and its investment policies were unclear.
New mass transit projects were approved by the cabinet early this year. The first line was to go to bid in April and the last line by the end of the year. But nothing has happened, he said.
Construction of the five electric rail lines was estimated to cost 165 billion baht. They include two sectors of the Red Line from Rangsit to Bang Sue and Taling Chan, and from Bang Sue to Makkasan and Hua Mark. The others are the Purple Line from Bang Yai to Bang Sue, the Blue Line from Hua Lamphong and Bang Sue to Bang Khae via Tha Phra, and the Green Line from Mor Chit to Saphan Mai, and from Soi Baring to Samut Prakan.
A plan to build seven factories on the eastern seaboard and a southern seaboard plan to build petrochemical plants were necessary to create jobs, he said.
''This government has never had a clear policy about investment. Its unclear policy, and the red tape in going ahead with these projects, were major factors that made private companies reluctant to invest in the country,'' he said.
''The next prime minister must start building up his popularity so that people will forget the former knight on the white horse,'' M.R. Pridiyathorn said, referring to ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Though he expects a short term in office for the new premier _ between one and 11/2 years _ he said whoever succeeds Gen Surayud had to come up with policies that benefit the public.
Former foreign minister Surin Pitsuwan said the next prime minister should end cronyism and make efforts to build up international confidence.
''I believe that our country will wake up from the nightmare that has haunted it for the past five years at the same time that Asean is prospering,'' said Mr Surin, who takes up the job of Asean secretary-general in January.