Government launches $11 billion bio-economy plan

bioeco1The Thai government unveiled a biotechnology-economy plan last week that will leverage the country’s agricultural prowess with its new emphasis on green growth and research and development. The bio-economy plan will focus on the Eastern Economic Corridor and its specialized clusters of industries and is expected to draw over $11 billion in private investment over the next decade.

As part of building the bio-economy, the government is planning an industrial estate focusing on biotech industries patterned after the Biopolis estate in Singapore, said Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, who oversees the economic ministries. Thailand’s Biopolis would have a major advantage over its forerunner in Singapore, however, because unlike the city-state, Thailand has plentiful natural resources to supply the biotech ventures that will locate there.

Somkid spoke at a signing ceremony of a memorandum of understanding with the private sector, and educational and research institutes to initiate the plan. The government believes that investing in biotechnology could add approximately $10 billion in extra value to the Kingdom’s sugar cane industry, along with added value and returns for other agro-industries such as tapioca.

Uttama Savanayana, the Minister of Industry, said both domestic and foreign investors will be participating in Thailand’s bio-industry sector, which will include bio-energy, bio-plastics and other green products and innovations.

Bio-economy projects will be an early priority for government support in the Eastern Economic Corridor, or EEC. A detailed master plan of the EEC should be finalized next month, Uttama said. The EEC will cluster 10 priority industries and have the most advanced infrastructure and logistics in the country, as well as new modern green living communities.

The Corridor will link and amplify Thailand’s industrial output and trade with the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.

The prime beneficiaries of the bio-economy plan, however, will be the country’s farmers, Somkid said.

While driving up growth is always a goal, that growth must be inclusive Somkid said. Inclusive growth is in line with the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy that serves as a guiding principle for the Kingdom’s economic development, and the philosophy is supportive of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, which also calls for development in harmony with the environment.

“We’re doing all these things not because of the private sector but for the farmers. So whatever we do, we must think of what farmers will get. Don’t destroy the ecology, and the livelihood of the people,” Somkid said.