Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Thailand's Megaprojects roadshow focus

WICHIT CHANTANUSORNSIRI


Surapong: Growth of 6% still within reach

Thailand's 1.6-trillion-baht megaproject programme will be the highlight of the country's roadshow presentations to investors next month, Finance Minister Surapong Suebwonglee said yesterday.

The infrastructure projects involve new investments in mass transit, water, education, health care and airport facilities and systems over the next several years.

The Finance Ministry plans to invite local ambassadors to also attend the briefing on the investment plans in a bid to attract investors and contractors to participate.

Dr Surapong said economic growth of 6% for the full year was still in reach, assuming that global oil prices remained at moderate levels.

Oil prices currently hover at $125 per barrel, down 15% from earlier highs this month but still up over 65% from the year before.

Oil prices and political uncertainties have been the main factors undermining business and consumer confidence over the past several months, helping push the Stock Exchange of Thailand down more than 20% for the year to date.

But Dr Surapong said he was hopeful that the government's six-point programme announced earlier this month would help rebuild confidence.''The government has taken measures to both stimulate the economy and ease the impact [of inflation and oil prices] on the public. We are hopeful that we can regain investor confidence,'' Dr Surapong said.

The six measures, which are effective until January 2009, are largely aimed at reducing the burden of high inflation on consumers, and include free bus and train rides for commuters, free water and electricity for small households and excise tax cuts for diesel and gasohol fuel.

Pannee Sathavarodom, the director-general for the Fiscal Policy Office, said the measures should help cut inflation this year to between 6% and 7% from earlier projections of 7% to 8%.

The FPO now projects economic growth of 5.6% for the full year, based on preliminary estimates of 5.9% growth in the first half and 5% to 5.5% growth in the second half.

The estimates are based on Dubai oil prices averaging $130 per barrel this year, up slightly from $121 now.

Exports will be the main driver for the economy in the second half of the year, with June exports up 27.4% in dollar terms from the same period last year, said Mrs Pannee. Exports increased 14.3% in price terms from last year and 11.5% in volume.

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