Leading analysts call for rail and road projects and Dawei development, but a rethink on high-speed rail and water management plans.
Scaling back, redefining and reviewing are the words analysts used to describe whether megaprojects spearheaded by the Yingluck Shinawatra gov-ernment should see the light of day.
Authorities on infrastructure were polled by the Bangkok Post and they do not think the schemes should continue without further scrutiny and alterations by the junta because of their far-reaching implications on the Thai economy.
The viability of the high-speed train project, valued at 783 billion baht, was seriously doubted, while the 350-billionbaht water management plan needs to wait, said analysts.
Thailand’s participation in the ambitious Dawei project, the US$50-billion integrated industrial zone in southern Myanmar, should be redefined, they added.
Somsak Chotrattanasiri , director, Budget Bureau
Suggestion: The dual-track railways and four-lane road expansion should proceed, but the high-speed train project should be shelved.
Background: The five dual-track railways with a combined 767 kilometres in length require an investment of over 100 billion baht. They comprise Lop Buri to Pak Nam Pho in Nakhon Sawan (118 km), Nakhon Pathom to Hua Hin (165 km), Map Ka Bao in Saraburi to Nakhon Ratchasima (132 km), Nakhon Ratchasima to Khon Kaen (185 km), and Prachuap Khiri Khan to Chumphon (167 km).
The 45 four-lane road projects run a length of 14,741 km.
Rationale: The investment will help the country shift its transportation focus from roads to the more cost-efficient rail, reducing the percentage of logistics costs to GDP by two percentage points.
The ratio of Thailand’s rail freight transportation will be raised to at least 5% of total transport modes from 2.5%, and its average speed will ramp up to 60 km/h from 39 km/h.
The share of water transport will rise to at least 19% from 15% now. Sumet Ongkittikul, researcher, Thailand Development Research Institute
Suggestion: Various skytrain projects and dual-track railway projects that were approved by the previous government should proceed.
WATER MANAGEMENT SCHEME
Seree Supratid , director, Climate Change and Disaster Center, Rangsit University
Suggestion: The whole project needs to stop pending pragmatic consideration of its merit on a micro basis.
The next government should spend two years engaging feasibility studies of this project as the plan was not thoroughly investigated by the former government.
Background: This huge scheme came into existence following Thailand’s floods in 2011, which the World Bank estimated cost the country up to 1.44 trillion baht in losses.
The entire project comprises nine modules, which were put up for construction bids last year including reservoir construction in the Ping, Yom, Nan, Sakae Krang and Pasak river basins, land utilisation in the Chao Phraya river basin, a flood retention area in Nakhon Sawan, improvements of the Yom, Nan and Chao Phraya rivers and construction of floodways along the Chao Phraya River.
Also included in the project are modules for reservoir construction in 17 river basins, land utilisation and town planning, waterway improvements, and data management and warning systems.
Most of the modules are scheduled for public hearings by order of the Administrative Court.
Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, secretary-general, National Economic and Social Development Board
Suggestion: Thailand’s participation in this development should continue with more defined terms to encourage the Thai private sector’s involvement.
Background: Dawei is a grand scheme to turn the Myanmar backwater into an massive economic zone with a port, road and rail links, power plants, waterworks, industrial estates, a telecommunications network and a township.
Thailand and Myanmar last November agreed to push forward the ambitious scheme by forming special-purpose companies to manage key developments under the project’s umbrella.
Rationale: Dawei is vital for connectivity within Asean and to elevate the kingdom to be the focal point of Southeast Asia.Somchet Thinaphong, managing director, Italian-Thai Development Plc (one of the Dawei project’s sponsors)
Suggestion: There should be greater transparency on what sort of investment models should be adopted for Dawei, e.g. build-operate-transfer.
“It is a pointless use of money as we don’t even know if it will be able to prevent disaster”
“The Dawei project plays a significant role in Thailand’s strategy to become a regional hub”
“Dawei is vital for physically and institutionally connecting Asean. Our priorities are building roads and a port”
“The high-speed train project needs a feasibility study to prove its viability and it will take time to raise funds”
“The high-speed train project needs to be put on ice as its viability has yet to be established”
First published: Bangkok Post, May 29, 2014