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NEWS UPDATES 2 July 2010

Thai infrastucture pushed

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Thailand will lose its status as an attractive investment destination within the next 10 years if the government remains stuck in a political trap and fails to develop more infrastructure, especially power plants and transport systems, says Saha Group chairman Boonsithi Chokwattana, as reported by the Bangkok Post.

Shoppers throng the booths in search of bargains on Saha’s many brands at the opening of the annual Saha Group fair yesterday at Queen Sirikit National Convention Center in Bangkok.

The recent political unrest has deterred foreign investors who thought about using Thailand as their production centre in Asean.

"Now, foreign investors look beyond Thailand to other potential investment destinations such as Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia," Mr. Boonsithi said. "Since the start of this year, we haven't met any foreign partners who have shown interest in investing locally. This indicates they are not confident about investing here."

He said the government urgently needed to restore confidence among foreign investors and ask them to reconsider investing here. At the same time, the government should invest more in basic infrastructure.

The government has invested little in new infrastructure projects such as power plants and transport systems over the past few years.

In contrast, Vietnam is preparing to build another three nuclear power plants and a high-speed train project in the near future. (Editor’s note: Vietnam’s bullet train project has been shelved as too costly for the country.)

"If the Thai government fails to do these, Thailand will lose its competitiveness and lag Vietnam for certain within the next 10 years."

He added that Saha, the country's biggest consumer goods conglomerate, was interested in expanding its overseas investment in areas such as Vietnam, Burma and Indonesia through joint ventures, particularly in the food and apparel businesses. This is because these countries have similar cultures and thanks to their proximity, good logistics networks can be established.

This year, Mr. Boonsithi said the group would focus on expanding business locally more than abroad because of the fluctuations of currency exchange rates.

"Our policy is to maintain the strengths of our domestic business rather than exports," he said.

The export revenue of Saha Group has declined over the past few years to 20% of total revenues, from more than 30 percent earlier.

Mr. Boonsithi said the country should manage its currency to be flexible enough to cope with speculation in the market.

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