Nov 7, 2012

Thailand - New ministers announce their plans

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The new transport and energy ministers have vowed to press ahead with mass-transit projects and to consider adjusting the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), with the latter aimed at helping those on small incomes.

Transport Minister Chatchart Sithipan yesterday said he would focus on the development of the 10 electric-train routes, high-speed trains and double-track railways connecting major urban cities and their outskirts, as well as other basic infrastructure projects to serve the upcoming Asean Economic Community.

"Our key mission is to switch the country's transport [focus] from roads to a railway system, as well as the development of a transport system to connect Thailand with neighbouring countries, and further development projects such as seaports and airports that will connect Thailand with the world," he said.

"If we don't change our transport system, nobody will invest in Thailand in the next 20 years, as we will be burdened with high transport costs. We have delivered our mission to all agencies under my responsibility, for their support. Those who are not able to follow our strategy should step aside, as they will cause the work to be delayed. For the management [of the schemes], we will concentrate on transparency, prudence and fairness."

Chatchart said Airports of Thailand (AOT) needed to speed up the second-phase development of Suvarnabhumi Airport, as well as the associated environmental-impact study.

This should be done alongside a development plan for the third and fourth phases of the airport. He cited in particular the feasibility study for the third airport runway, which is expected to cost Bt16 billion.

Moreover, he said Don Mueang Airport needed to open its second passenger terminal by the beginning of next year, besides which bidding would be opened next year for a Skytrain route connecting Don Mueang with Suvarnabhumi.

AOT also needs to focus on increasing the efficiency of its staff and reducing the number of outside workers, he said.

Meanwhile, Chatchart said the key strategy adopted by the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) is to focus on the building of a high-speed train route from the Airport Rail Link to Rayong, the purchase of engines and trains, and construction of a double-track railway between Chachoengsao and Saraburi.

The minister said the fare increase proposed by the SRT should, however, be further delayed as there first needed to be an improvement in the level of service currently provided.

The government will also extend its free bus and train services, but the programme will be adjusted so that lower-income people are the ones to benefit.


Energy Minister Pongsak Rukta-pongpisal said during his policy-delivery statement yesterday that the ministry would examine LPG consumption by low-income people as part of its move to reduce prices specifically for household users, small businesses and street vendors.

If it decides to introduce a subsidy of Bt10 per kilogram, based on the estimated number of beneficiaries of the scheme, the cost would be Bt2.88 billion a year, or as much as Bt5 billion if street vendors are included.

The subsidy could be carried out by using "LPG credit cards", which cardholders could use to pay the full price before the government pays the subsidy on to their cards later, he said.

Pongsak also assigned the ministry to draw up plans to install oil pipelines to all regions to promote equal access to fuel at the same price.

On electricity policy, he assigned the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand to create public understanding about the need for "clean" coal-fired power plants to serve rising demand.


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