The government hopes immediately to kick-start its infrastructure investment spree in dual-track rail lines, four-lane roads and customs checkpoints after the 2-trillion-baht borrowing bill is passed into law.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said under the plan, the government would spend 186 billion baht on four-lane roads.
Building new four-lane roads and widening existing two-lane roads to four lanes can start right away, as these do not require environmental impact assessment reports, he said.
The government believes the seven-year investment will jolt the country’s lacklustre economy into life as domestic consumption and private investment seem to be running out of steam.
The massive investment is expected to help reduce logistics costs and turn Thailand into an Asean transport hub.
The borrowing bill is pending Senate deliberation.
Although many businessmen support the infrastructure development plan 80% of the budget will be spent on high-speed and dual-track rail lines the opposition Democrats and the Thailand Development Research Institute have raised questions about the lack of feasibility studies on many of the projects and the cost-effectiveness of others.
Mr Kittiratt said the dual-track rail links require an investment of 140 billion baht.
Under the plan, the government would construct five dual-track rail lines and improve existing routes.
He said construction of new dualtrack railways, which run along existing rail lines, could be carried out at once.
Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt last month said four projects under the ministry could start next year when the bill becomes law.
They are the expansion of the Phetkasem Sai 4 Road in Bangkok, a new tollway between Ayutthaya’s Bang Pa-in district and Nakhon Ratchasima town, five dual-track rail routes and extended electric train routes in Greater Bangkok.
Mr Kittiratt said the government is ready to build 30 of the 41 customs checkpoints nationwide set forth in the infrastructure development plan.
All 41 will cost 12.5 billion baht.Acceleration of the government’s budget disbursement is a crucial tool to stimulate the country’s economic expansion next year, said Mr Kittiratt.
In fiscal 2013 ended Sept 30, government agencies disbursed 60% of the investment budget, falling short of the 80% target.
For fiscal 2014, the government’s budget is 2.525 trillion baht, with 441 billion or 17.5% for investment.
writer: Wichit Chantanusornsiri
First published: Bangkok Post website on 8 November 2013