Asian Development Bank supports Thai infrastructure plan

3The chief of the Asian Development Bank’s office in Thailand said last week that his institution approves of and wants to provide funding for the government’s massive infrastructure building and upgrade program. The government prefers to use its own resources in the program’s early stages, and so the Bank is prepared to invest during later phases.

“The time will come for the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to provide financial assistance,” said Yasushi Negishi, the country director for the ADB’s Thailand Resident Mission.  “At the moment, we are talking about financing Bangkok’s urban mass transit such as the underground and monorail systems. I think those are the projects the ADB is pretty keen to support.”

The government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is committed to building or upgrading transport, logistics and water infrastructure worth nearly $100 billion over the next few years. The government has said it will fund the new infrastructure through public-private partnerships, and it has already negotiated agreements with several private firms and investors from China and Japan for some projects.

Although Thailand is already known for having some of the best infrastructure in Southeast Asia, much of it was built decades ago and so some of it can no longer be considered cutting edge, although it is still very serviceable.

Thailand’s infrastructure, along with its strategic location in the heart of mainland Southeast Asia and its policies of economic openness, has given it a distinct advantage in trade, investment and overall economic development compared to many of its neighbors over the past half century.

With the arrival of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Economic Community, or AEC, a 10-nation free trade and investment zone, less developed neighbors are expected to advance and compete more vigorously with the Kingdom. Thailand’s policymakers, therefore, have successfully advocated for investing in a massive infrastructure upgrade to extend and ensure the Kingdom’s advantages in the new regional environment.

Among the new infrastructure projects that are about to be launched are high-speed rail lines linking the country’s borders, double-track rail lines, new highways, expanded deep-sea ports, and upgraded and expanded airports. Bangkok is gradually building several new elevated and underground commuter rail lines to ease the capital’s traffic congestion. In addition, infrastructure to help farmers with irrigation and to prevent massive flooding is also in the cards.

In December, the cabinet approved action plans for the first 20 infrastructure projects worth a combined $49 billion. The cabinet also approved the launch of an infrastructure fund, called the Thailand Future Fund, to raise cash from the public for construction. The Thailand Future Fund will mobilize up to $2.7 billion and will be listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand.