17 Nov 2009

PM sees http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifrevival in investment in Q2 Stimulus spending set to prime private sector

‘‘Government spending on its own is not sufficient for sustainable growth. The private sector is also needed,’’ Mr Abhisit told business leaders at a conference yesterday. NATTHITI AMPRIWAN

Private investment should start to rebound in the second quarter next year thanks to government stimulus programmes and the recovering global economy, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva says.

He said the Thai Khem Kaeng infrastructure programme would help lay the foundation for a return to sustainable growth and create up to 1.5 million jobs over the next three years.

The 1.45-trillion-baht programme will finance tens of thousands of projects nationwide, ranging from large mass-transit projects in Bangkok to small microprojects aimed at improving rural irrigation systems, health and education facilities.

Mr Abhisit said the private sector has already shown strong signs of recovery from the global crisis, at least as seen through tax revenues.

Economic growth in 2010 is projected to reach 3% to 3.5%, compared with a contraction of about 3% this year.

Mr Abhisit called on private businesses to co-operate with the government in supporting medium-term, sustainable growth.

"Government spending on its own is not sufficient for sustainable growth. The private sector is also needed to help support long-term growth," he told business leaders at a conference yesterday.

A panel of leading businessmen agreed that economic indicators point to a continued rebound through 2010.

Santi Vilassakdanont, the chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), said private investment should turn positive in 2010 as a number of industrial sectors are already close to full capacity.

On average, industrial capacity utilisation is running at about 65%, with sectors such as electronics, construction materials, autos, textiles and jewellery showing clear improvement from earlier this year.

"Once capacity utilisation rates reach 70%, expected to occur in the first or second quarter of 2010, manufacturers will have to start investing again to expand," Mr Santi said.

He said the October industrial confidence index is expected to exceed the 100 point level for the first time in four years, as orders have risen sharply with the global rebound.

Mr Santi acknowledged that key risks such as oil prices and domestic politics could undermine the recovery, as well as uncertainties about the global economy itself.

"We want to see politics stable. This will at least help minimise the negative impact on the economy if the global economy does not recover as we hope," he said.

The Thai Khem Kaeng programme is coming at an opportune moment, Mr Santi added, as Thailand needs to strengthen its competitiveness as the Asean region moves closer to an integrated single market over the next several years.

Thai companies need to prepare for 2015, when investment is scheduled to be liberalised within the region and some companies may look to relocate production to neighbouring countries to take advantage of lower labour and operating costs.

But the government must ensure infrastructure funds, estimated to total as much as 1.06 trillion baht for 2010 alone, are spent with the greatest efficiency and transparency, Mr Santi said.

Dusit Nontanakorn, the chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, agreed that the planned investments in logistics, renewable energy and water resources should help raise the country's competitiveness.

But political stability remains critical, he said.

"The political conflicts need to end. And the infrastructure investments need good execution and implementation to help the country prepare for liberalisation within Asean over the next five years. We need to be positioned to benefit from economic integration," Mr Dusit said.

The Chamber of Commerce is studying the current competitiveness of seven key sectors, including food and agriculture, health care, logistics and tourism, and would soon present the government with its recommendations, Mr Dusit said.

Cambodia allows diplomats to visit alleged spy

An old photo of Siwarak Chutiphong (right), the engineer arrested by Cambodian authorities on spying charges, and his mother.

Thai diplomats were allowed access to accused spy Siwarak Chutiphong (right) in Phnom Penh's Prey Sar prison on Tuesday morning and he was allowed a phone call to his mother (left) - a move welcomed by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva who said the government now hopes for his early return home.

The Thai charge d'affaires in Phnom Penh and other embassy officials were allowed to visit Thai engineer Siwarak Chutiphong at Prey Sar prison this morning, the foreign minister's secretary Chavanond Intarakomalyasut confirmed on Tuesday.

It was the first time consular access had been allowed since Mr Siwarak was arrested on Thursday for supplying details of fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's flight schedule to the Thai embassy.

On Monday, Cambodian foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong claimed a Thai embassy official was allowed to visit Mr Siwarak in Prey Sar prison where he was temporarily detained. Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said this was not correct and that Phnom Penh had declined to allow a visit.

Mr Chavanond said charge d'affaires Chalotorn Phaovibul reported that Mr Siwarak was receiving proper treatment at the prison.

Mr Chalotorn was talking to Cambodian officials, trying to obtain details of the charges against Mr Siwarak so that defence lawyers could prepare a case.

He said Mr Siwarak was also allowed a five minute phone conversation with his mother Seemarak na Nakhon Phanom in Nakhon Ratchasima. He told her he was being well treated by Cambodian authorities and was in good health.

Mr Chavanond said he saw this as a good sign that could lead to talks to normalise relations between the two countries.

Mr Chalatorn, as charge d'affaires, is temporarily in charge of the Thai diplomatic mission in the absence of the ambassador, who was recalled two weeks ago.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva welcomed the Cambodian government's response, and said that the government has hopes that Mr Siwarak would be soon released.

"There is hope [for his release], but we have to first follow legal procedures. The precise charges against him are not yet known. I think this should be clear by tomorrow," he said. "This will allow us to follow legal procedure and assign a lawyer to help him."

Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga had ordered two high-level ministry officials to travel to Cambodia to visit Mr Siwarak, Department of Special Investigation director-general Tharit Pengdit said.

Deputy justice permanent secretary Pol Col Tawee Sodsong and Suwana Suwannajutha, director-general of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department, had been instructed to visit him as soon as possible to make sure he is accorded his rights.

The Rights and Liberties Protection Department had also been insructed to liaise with Mr Siwarak's family and the Foreign Ministry to arrange legal assistance.

Thai officials would not attempt to interfere in Cambodia's investigation process, Mr Tharit said.

Mrs Suwana said she would first visit Mr Siwarak's mother Seemarak in Nakhon Ratchasima to find out if she needs any help.

Thai police arrest 2 Thai traffickers of African ivory

Police have arrested two Thais for trafficking in African ivory, a crime that carries a maximum fouryear jail sentence, police said Tuesday.

Samat Chokechoima and Kanok Wongsarot were arrested on Monday in a sting operation in which Thai police posed as buyers of carved African ivory items, said Pol LtColonel Thanayos Gengkasrikit, spokesman of the Natural Resource and Environmental Crime Division.

The suspects face a maximum of four years in prison and fines of up to Bt40,000 under Thailand's Wild Animal Preservation and Protection Act and another fine up to Bt100,000 under the Customs Act for the import and export of illegal goods.

Described as "middlelevel operators", the arrest of Samat and Kanok was the result of a yearlong investigation involving Thai and US officials, along with the Freeland Foundation and the Asean Wildlife Enforcement Network (AseanWEN).