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March 10, 2009

Thailand names 2009 ‘Year of Investment’
Faced with falling exports, rising unemployment and negative growth, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Sunday named 2009 the "Year of Investment", vowing to speed up approvals for foreign investment projects, German news agency DPA reported.

Addressing the nation on his weekly television show Sunday morning, Abhisit vowed to facilitate corporate investments in Thailand this year, the Thai News Agency reported.

Abhisit, 44, vowed to set up a "one-start, one-stop" centre, gathering with personnel from all government agencies under the prime minister's office, to speed up investments.

Abhisit also pledged to promote the country's ailing automotive industry, without providing details.

Thailand is a regional hub for automobile assembly and manufacturing, but the sector has faced a rapid slowdown as domestic and overseas demand for vehicles in recent months as the US, Europe and Japan slipped into recession.

In January, Thailand's total exports tumbled 26 percent year-on-year, the sharpest fall in a decade. Economists predict the gross domestic product will decline one to two per cent in 2009, with companies forced to lay off an estimated one million workers.

Investment in Thailand has been modest over the past three years as the country went through political turmoil, starting with a coup in September, 2006, and ending last December with the closure of Bangkok's two airports by anti-government protestors.

Abhisit, the Oxford-educated leader of the Democrat Party, was named prime minister on December 15, last year.

He has made restoring confidence in the Thai economy one of his government's priorities.
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