The government is advised to enact a specific law to govern the North East Economic Corridor (NEEC) project in order to facilitate its development.
The new corridor is expected to be similar in shape to the government’s current Flagship Economic Corridor (EEC), which covers three provinces.
Isara Vongkusolkit, honorary chairman of Mitr Phol Sugar Corp, Asia’s largest sugar producer, and honorary chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said specific law would facilitate faster and more efficient development of the new economic corridor .
The law would mandate all relevant agencies to engage in development, including the Ministries of Interior, Industry, Natural Resources and Environment, as well as the Board of Investment (BoI).
Investors currently have to seek authorization from many agencies, resulting in many procedures seen as obstacles to development, Mr. Isara said.
He said the development of the corridor also requires upgrading the skills of local workers, which is a priority for the government if it wants to staff the NEEC with Thai employees.
R&D will also play a key role in the development of NEEC, said Mr. Isara.
“The Thai government should implement policies and incentives similar to those offered by the China Guangxi pilot free trade zone. [GXFTZ], for which I was an advisor, “he said.
GXFTZ is one of six pilot zones designated by the State Council of China in August 2019.
Mr. Isara said that the BoI’s investment privileges are not the most important factor in attracting capital to the NEEC, especially for small and medium enterprises.
He proposed that the government set up one-stop services for investment as well as an offer of financial assistance.
Mr. Isara said that the development of water supply is crucial to improve the productivity of the agricultural sector and the incomes of the inhabitants of the region, which is home to 21 million people representing 33% of the Thai population.
It supports the development of the Khong-Chi-Mun plan, an irrigation project initiated 30 years ago to bring water to the arid regions of the northeast.
As part of the project, a series of dams, irrigation canals and pumping stations are installed along the Mekong River to supply local tributaries.
Parts of the project were built over two decades ago, but work was halted following protests from residents who feared a negative impact on the environment.
The government wants to develop three new economic corridors that it considers to be decisive for increasing investments and rehabilitating the economy within 5 to 6 years.
The projects are the NEEC, the Northern Economic Corridor and the Southern Economic Corridor.
They should be promoted in the 13th national economic and social development plan which spans 2023-2027.
The NEEC covers the provinces of Udon Thani, Khon Kaen, Nakhon Ratchasima and Nong Khai.
The corridor is expected to manufacture products to supply the EEC and China, with a focus on developing the bioeconomy due to the region’s abundant raw materials such as rice, tapioca and sugar cane.