Asian Development Bank mulling EEC investment

The Asian Development Bank is working with the office of Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to study infrastructure projects in the Eastern Economic Corridor advanced development zone as a prelude to supporting some of the projects with funding, the director-general of the bank’s Southeast Asia department said last week.

“In terms of the development plan, which has been [underway] for quite some time, we are now in discussions with them and looking at what could be the possible elements of that. We are open in terms of what projects we can support. As of now we are quite broad,” Ramesh Subramaniam, director-general for the Southeast Asia department, said on the sidelines of the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) 51st annual meeting, held last week in Manila, the capital of the Philippines.

The Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) is a three-province zone east of the capital Bangkok that will be home to advanced, high-technology and green industries, as well as modern and environmentally friendly communities. It will serve as a showcase for Thailand 4.0, the national development plan to guide Thailand’s economy and society towards fostering innovation, research and development and higher-tech industries.

Many of the projects and some of the industries in the EEC are related to transport and logistics. They include upgrades of U-Tapao airport and Laem Chabang deep-sea port, high-speed railways connecting the zone to Bangkok and its airports, construction of an aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul center, as well as support and promotion of the aviation and aerospace industries.

Subramaniam said the ADB was particularly interested in supporting the financing of transport connectivity projects and their feasibility, logistics for special economic or export processing zones, and the introduction of green financing in the EEC.

He added that the Thai government has expressed a need for support in sourcing private financing for some of the EEC projects, and he said the ADB will provide support on how to structure infrastructure megaprojects and the participation of private investors.

The ADB is helping to fund a few mass transit rail projects in Thailand, but the Kingdom does not receive much financial assistance from the bank because its development is well ahead of some other countries in the region, and private investment in the Kingdom is relatively strong.

Thailand accounts for just 1 percent of the ADB’s $6.5 billion financial portfolio for Southeast Asia. Viet Nam receives 47 percent, Indonesia 21 percent and the Philippines 16 percent.