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February 19, 2009

Thailand to inject $54bn into the economy
Thailand's economic ministers agreed Wednesday to spend 1.9 trillion baht ($54.28 billion) over four years to try and stimulate an economy hit by global and domestic upheaval, the premier said.

AFP quoted Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who has been in power for just over two months, as saying that the long-term investment plan would focus on reviving the battered economy through joint investment with the private sector.

The three-to-four year plan will focus on infrastructure, tourism, education, public healthcare and water management, a government statement said.

"(The financing) will come from the national budget, as well as domestic and foreign loans," Abhisit said.

Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij told AFP the agricultural sector would get a large portion of the money, while upgrading transport systems and moving toward renewable energy sources were also priorities.

"We are now in the process of going into greater detail in terms of the specific projects that will be earmarked for this programme," Korn said. "We're trying to leverage from our natural advantages that we have and if we succeed in this, after five years I think Thailand will emerge in a very strong position," he added.

The spending plan now requires approval from parliament. Abhisit's government has already secured parliamentary approval for an emergency 116.7-billion-baht stimulus package, which they hope will help Thailand recover after months of street protests which ended in December.

The government said earlier this month it had also approved in principle borrowing of up to two billion dollars from global financial institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Abhisit told reporters Thai exports were feeling the pinch from the world financial crisis. The kingdom was also hard hit by the week-long seizures by anti-government protesters of Bangkok's two main airports.

The Bank of Thailand has said the airport closures in late November and early December cost the economy 290 billion baht and has forecast economic growth at zero to two percent this year.

Oxford-educated Abhisit came to power in a parliamentary vote in December after a court dissolved the former ruling party, ending six months of increasingly-disruptive street protests.

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