Splurge on infrastructure from October

The high speed train linking 3 airports is one prominent projects in next year’s budget.

Almost 200 billion baht worth of state investment is estimated to be pumped into the economy from October to March, says the Budget Bureau’s chief.

The bureau targets about 90 billion baht worth of investment budget to be taken out in the first half of fiscal 2019, starting Oct 1, and a further 100 billion baht of undisbursed budget from this fiscal year will be drawn down in the same period, said director Dechapiwat Na Songkhla.

Economic activity is expected to be more brisk next year based on improving growth of over 4% at the moment and the government’s large investment projects, including the Eastern Economic Corridor, Southern Economic Corridor and special economic zones, Mr Dechapiwat said.

GDP grew 4.6% in the second quarter compared with a year earlier after expanding at a five-year high of 4.9% in the first quarter, marking first-half growth of 4.8% year-on-year, despite the slow pace of state budget disbursement.

The Bank of Thailand in June upgraded its economic growth outlook to 4.4% for 2018 and 4.2% for 2019, up from 4.1% for both years.

The Finance Ministry forecasts the Thai economy to come in at 4.5% growth this year.

Suttirat Rattanachot, head of the Comptroller-General’s Department, said in July that state investment budget disbursement remained stuck in the slow lane, with 47% taken out for the nine months to June. However, the rate would reach 72% of the annual investment budget if the value of signed contracts were taken into account.

The government has an annual budget expenditure target of 2.9 trillion baht, of which 577 billion is for investment, for fiscal 2018. The government aims for 96% of the annual budget and 87% of the investment budget to be drawn down this fiscal year.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said the large investment budget will be doled out next year, as some big-ticket infrastructure projects have been delayed and bidding for these projects is expected to be held later this year or in early 2019.

Infrastructure projects expected to kick-start next year include the 200-billion-baht high-speed railway linking three major airports: Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and U-tapao.

A new inland container depot for shipping-based cargo, 2-3 electric train routes, the U-tapao aerotropolis and the third phase of Map Ta Phut and Laem Chabang port development are also scheduled to begin construction.

Mr Somkid said the emerging-market currency turmoil has hardly scratched the Thai economy, as the country’s solid economic fundamentals make it a safe haven.

In the meantime, Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong said clarity concerning the next general elections has bolstered investor confidence, propelling the stock market’s recent gains.

The government will put effort into making the country’s economic growth reach 5% this year, aiming for higher GDP to help tackle poverty.

The government’s flagship EEC will be the new growth driver for the Thai economy, Mr Apisak said, adding that several countries are also creating similar projects, so it’s necessary for Thailand to develop its own to be more attractive.

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