Published on Thursday, 08 November 2012 11:48
By NAKARIN SRILERT
Thailand and Myanmar have agreed to set up six working subcommittees to complete a master plan for development of the Dawei project within three months and kick off infrastructure investment next April.
The resolution was reached at the first meeting yesterday of the Thai-Myanmar Joint High-Level Committee (JHC) on the Dawei special economic zone and areas related to the project. Leading the Thai delegation was Deputy Prime Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong, while Myanmar's team was led by Vice President Nyan Htun.
"At the meeting, we assured Myanmar leaders that Thailand has no intention to take advantage of Myanmar by promoting Thai investment in the project," Kittiratt said. "The project will indeed benefit both countries and people in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Because of its massive size, it is essential that both countries work closely."
The six subcommittees will start their joint consultation immediately, having Thai PM's Office Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisal and Myanmar's industry minister as the main coordinators.
Among all the subcommittees, the one on infrastructure will take the lead, with Transport Minister Chatchart Sithipan representing Thailand. This committee will pave the way for infrastructure investment, which will involve road construction, a rail network, the deep-sea port and others such as water for manufacturing activities.
Next in line is the subcommittee on energy, with Energy Minister Pongsak Ruktapongpisal representing Thailand. The unit will have to get power resources ready to accommodate the industrial plants. It will also plot the investment plan for the petrochemical industry.
Thailand's Finance Ministry will join the subcommittee on trade and investment, responsible for proposing tax and non-tax incentives to draw global investors to the special economic zone. On this, Thailand will attempt to replicate its successes during the development of similar projects such as the deep-sea port and industrial estate at Laem Chabang.
The other three panels will deal with financing, industrial development, and community and the environment.
Kittiratt said that though the project would require huge investment, there should be no problem mobilising funds thanks to immense interest from many countries. Several developers have also expressed interest in financing it.
Still, Thailand and Myanmar will need to work closely in plotting the investment and financing plans, and this should be completed once the development phases are clearer, he said. He foresees the relocation of light and labour-intensive industries to Dawei in the initial stage, and heavy and advanced industries would follow when infrastructure is ready.
According to Somchai Sajjapongse, director-general of the Fiscal Policy Office, the investment cost may be reviewed. Italian-Thai Development, which was awarded the concession from the Myanmar government, earlier estimated the investment cost at Bt1.8 trillion.
Niwatthamrong said the six subcommittees aimed to complete the master plan for development of the deep-sea port and related areas within three months. The master plan will cover development details as well as the investment cost for each project.
The committees will convene again next month in Nay Pyi Taw. Then the JHC will meet again in March. This will pave the way for the construction of roads, the port and other infrastructure in April, for completion in 2015.
The estimated investment cost has tended to increase from the earlier forecast, as Myanmar proposed more basic infrastructure to make the project more enticing, Niwatthamrong said. For example, Myanmar is interested in making Dawei part of the Asean high-speed-rail project.
He noted that the Thai government would play a role as a coordinator, to pave the way for private investment from this country. He said the government would not inject capital into the project, but Thai state enterprises might co-invest in projects. Ital-Thai will still take the lead, as the main concessionaire. PTT, for instance, could invest in the project but based on its own feasibility study and financing.
"The Dawei project is to benefit the entire region, and the Thai government's role is to advocate added value for Thailand and our neighbour," Niwatthamrong said.
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