Thailand: Chamber wants law for Northeast economic zone
The government is being advised to enact a specific law to govern the planned Northeast Economic Corridor (NEEC) to facilitate its development.
The new corridor is expected to be similar in form to the government’s current flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), which covers three provinces.
Isara Vongkusolkit, honorary chairman of Mitr Phol Sugar Corp, Asia’s largest sugar producer, and honorary chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said a specific law will facilitate quicker and more efficient development of the new economic corridor.
The law would provide a mandate for all related agencies to engage in the development, including the Interior, Industry, and Natural Resources and Environment ministries, as well as the Board of Investment (BoI).
Investors must currently seek permission from many agencies, leading to a lot of procedures that are deemed obstacles for development, said Mr Isara.
He said development of the corridor also requires upgrading the skills of local workers, which is a government priority if it wants to staff the NEEC with Thai employees.
R&D will also prove instrumental in developing the NEEC, said Mr Isara.
“The Thai government should implement policies and incentives similar to those offered by the China Guangxi Pilot Free Trade Zone [GXFTZ], for which I was an adviser,” he said.
The GXFTZ is one of six pilot zones designated by the State Council of China in August 2019.
Mr Isara said the BoI’s investment privileges are not the most significant factor attracting capital to the NEEC, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises.
He proposed the government implement one-stop services for investment as well as offer financial aid packages.
Mr Isara said water supply development is crucial to upgrade the productivity of the farm sector and the income of people in the region, which is home to 21 million people representing 33% of Thailand’s population.
He supports the development of the Khong-Chi-Mun plan, an irrigation scheme initiated 30 years ago to bring water to arid regions in the Northeast.
Under the project, a series of dams, irrigation canals and pumping stations are set up along the Mekong River to feed local tributaries.
Some portions of the project were built over two decades ago, but work stopped following protests from locals who feared an adverse impact on the environment.
The government is keen to develop three new economic corridors it sees as instrumental in increasing investment and rehabilitating the economy in 5-6 years.
The projects are the NEEC, the Northern Economic Corridor and the Southern Economic Corridor.
They are scheduled to be promoted in the 13th national economic and social development plan that spans 2023-27.
The NEEC covers the provinces of Udon Thani, Khon Kaen, Nakhon Ratchasima and Nong Khai.
The corridor is expected to manufacture products to supply the EEC and China, with an emphasis on bio-economy development because of the area’s plentiful raw materials such as rice, tapioca and sugar cane.