PM Prayut to host Bangkok summit that will endorse 215 development projects in Mekong countries
Leaders from Mekong countries, meeting in Bangkok later this month for their fifth summit, will endorse 215 development projects with an estimated total budget of US$51.5 billion (Bt1.63 trillion) in 10 sectors of cooperation.
Their ambition: To sustain growth as well as enhance connectivity, competitiveness and equality, senior Thai officials said yesterday.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will host and chair the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) summit on December 19-20, which will be attended by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Laos PM Thongsing Thammavong, Myanmar President Thein Sein and Vietnamese PM Nguyen Tan Dung.
Of the 215 projects under the GMS Regional Investment Framework (RIF) to be approved by the leaders, 123 projects are on investment and 92 are technical assistance projects which the members and partners would extend to the region, said Deputy Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith.
The scheme would cover 10 sectors of development – transport, energy, agriculture, environment, human resource development, urban development, tourism, trade facilitation, and information and communications technology, he said.
Initiated and sponsored by the Asian Development Bank since 1992, the GMS revolves around development cooperation among the six riparian states of the Mekong. Their cooperation is focused mostly on infrastructure development to enhance physical connectivity.
Well-known projects include the East-West and North-South economic corridors – transportation routes to link the Mekong basin both vertically and horizontally.
Thailand would contribute to the RIF with 78 projects in both investment schemes and technical assistance worth approximately $5.48 billion, Arkhom said. He noted Thai investment for transportation projects was mostly to fulfil links in the East-West economic corridor.
Arkhom is secretary-general of the Thai state planner’s Office of National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB). He highlighted the Bang Yai, Nonthaburi to Kanchanaburi motorway project to link up with Thailand’s Laem Chabang deep sea port and Myanmar’s upcoming Dawei seaport costing some $2 billion.
Also in the pipeline is the upgrading of the Mae Sot-Tak; Lom Sak-Phetchabun and Kalasin-Mukdahan roads to facilitate transport in the East-West economic corridor, he said.
Thailand has played significant roles in developing the East-West and North-South corridors for a long time, he said. The road between Chiang Rai-Chiang Khong would be upgraded to link with the Mekong bridge at Chiang Khong to Laos’s Houaysay, he said, adding that Thailand and Laos had agreed to build another bridge to cross the Mekong at Bueng Kan and Laos’s Paksan.
With collaboration from China, Thailand planned to build a $2.25-billion dual-track railway from Nong Khai to Bangkok and Laem Chabang, he said.
The GMS countries shared a long-term vision for a regional rail network from Southeast Asia to China. The initial route would link Singapore via Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam to China. Thailand and Laos are engaging to fulfil their portion, he said.
GMS leaders would also acknowledge during the summit the setting up of a Greater Mekong Railway Association to exchange information and technicalities of a rail system, he said.
During the summit in Bangkok, GMS leaders would also agree on the establishment of a Regional Power Coordination Centre to exchange information on electricity consumption and trade in the region, Arkhom said.
Providing financial resources for the projects is a big challenge for the summit, said NESDB deputy secretary-general Porametee Vimolsiri. The ADB basically acts as the secretariat office for the GMS and financial resources from other sources such as the private sector and development partners are welcomed along with other financiers, he said.
The China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is expected to play a crucial role in financing projects in the GMS, he said.
On the software side, leaders would also discuss the delayed implementation of transport and trade facilitation under the Cross Border Transport Agreement (CBTA) which was agreed upon more than 10 years ago, although Thailand and Myanmar are the two remaining members yet to ratify it.
The CBTA would facilitate and regulate cross-border transport, immigration and customs clearance among six nations. “We need to take time to adjust our domestic laws for compatibility with the CBTA before ratification,” Arkhom said.
He noted that Thailand might be able to ratify the pact before the summit.