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Japanese backing pledged for EEC

May 03. 2018
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THE Japan Bank for International Co-operation (JBIC) has promised to provide soft loans to investors setting up businesses in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) and is ready to back investment in a high-speed link between three airports that underpins the flagship economic zone.

Tadashi Maeda, chief executive officer and executive managing director of state-run JBIC, made the pledges when he met Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak at Government House yesterday. 

Somkid said after the meeting that the two sides discussed progress on the EEC, especially concerning the government’s plan to build the high-speed network between the three international airports - Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang in Bangkok and U-Tapao in Rayong province. 

“The JBIC is ready to provide soft loans to Thai, Japanese, Chinese and European investors who plan to invest in the EEC,” Somkid quoted Maeda as saying.

A law enabling the establishment of the EEC has passed the National Legislative Assembly; it must be published in the Royal Gazette before it comes into force.

The government is drafting the terms of reference (TOR) for the rail project, which is expected to yield economic returns over the long run, Somkid said. 

He said the government also wants Japan to support an Indo-Pacific economic co-operation plan, which would lead to improved transport connections for participating countries, including India, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan and Australia. 

Maeda said that Japan will send high-level officials to attend the summit of the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Co-operation Strategy (ACMECS) from June 15-16. Thailand is hosting the summit, where it will push for an economic development agenda for the so-called CLMVT nations: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand. 

The summit will discuss plans to achieve what officials call seamless connectivity in the greater Mekong subregion, fund-raising to finance investment in ACMECS and sustainable and innovative development for the region.

Thailand is interested in a study on the likely impact of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and wants Japan to conduct the study on how the free-trade agreement under the CPTPP will affect the Thai economy, especially the farming and pharmaceutical industries. The government also wants the JBIC to monitor the progress of mass transit projects in Bangkok.

Somkid said the government will speed up an investment plan for an aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) centre at U-Tapao airport and for the third phase of development of the Laem Chabang port in the EEC. Both proposals would draw more private investment into the region. 

Deputy government spokesman Major General Veerachon Sukhontapatipak said Prayut thanked Maeda for JBIC’s plans to conduct feasibility study into a “smart city” project in the EEC. Prayut also pledged to support Japanese investors, Veerachon said. 

In a related matter, the Centre of Research and Development for Human Resources of the Eastern Economic Corridor Office will today sign a memorandum of understanding with three state agencies to support the education system under the Sattahip Model, an initiative named after a district in Chon Buri province.

The three agencies are: the Office of Vocational Education Commission, the Office of the Higher Education Commission, and the Board of Investment. 

The EEC Policy Steering Committee, which is chaired by Prayut, has approved the Sattahip Model, which is designed to ensure the workforce will have sufficient skills for the development of the EEC.

Twelve vocational institutes in the eastern provinces are participating in the model. Under the collaboration, those companies with a shortage in skilled workers will work with the institutes to find potential applicants that fit their needs.

The participating institutes have enrolled 900 students for the May semester, with courses ranging from hotel management to information technology.


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