More investment expected as EEC law enacted

Thailand’s economic heavyweights are expecting investments in the Eastern Economic Corridor showcase development zone to increase this year now that a long-awaited law governing the area officially came into force last week, spelling out terms, conditions, regulations and incentives for companies setting up shop in the high technology manufacturing corridor.

“Foreign and local investors were waiting for clarity on the new law. Now that the law has been published, investors can move forward with their investment and business plans,” said Suphan Mongkolsuthee, chairmanof the Federation of Thai Industries.

The Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) Act has 73 sections that define policy and regulate practices in the three-province zone east of Bangkok. Among the sections are those that cover city planning, land use for sustainable development, regulations concerning foreigners working in the zone, along with several sections dealing with incentives for investment and to facilitate investment.

The law specifies that it is intended to benefit the 10 industries targeted by the government for preferential treatment because it deems them important to the advancement of the country, its economy and to foster the next level of development, which would be driven by innovation, higher-technology, green technology, and research and development.

The 10 industries include robotics for industry; logistics and aviation; biofuels and bio-chemicals; digital; and medical services.
The EEC received $9.2 billion worth of investment applications through the Board of Investment in 2017, equal to 46 percent of the value of all applications submitted to the board. Suphan believes that figure will be exceeded now that the law has taken effect.

“This year will be the year of real investment in the country,” he said. Investment is a key driver of economic growth.

The government, meanwhile, has said it expects a total of $52 billion to be invested in industries and infrastructure in the corridor in coming years. The area is already home to over 30 old and new industrial estates, the Map Ta Phut and Laem Chabang deep-sea ports and U-Tapao airport.

In addition, a state-of-the art aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul center is being built at U-Tapao that will service aircraft from the region and the world. High-speed rail links are planned to connect U-Tapao to Bangkok’s two international airports, Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang.

Hutchinson Ports of Hong Kong announced last week that it is bringing automation to the corridor, opening a remote-controlled container terminal at Laem Chabang deep-sea port at an investment cost of $600 million. The terminal will open in June.