BANGKOK, July 19 (Xinhua) -- Thai Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong said Thursday that the government plans to continue spending on building infrastructure to drive economic growth, particularly in the creation of a new industrial zone known as the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC).
"EEC will be the engine of growth for Thailand in the next 10 years," Apisak said in his keynote speech at a seminar on the prospects of Thai economy in the second half of the year, attended by Thai investors.
He said the current government will continue its policy of "fiscal expansion," meaning the government will spend more than it will earn, to drive the economy by investing in infrastructure such as roads, double-track rails and airports.
For the EEC, Apisak said the current plan is to build a high-speed rail connecting the existing three airports - Suvarnabhumi, Don Muang and U-tapao.
U-tapao is located in Rayong province on the eastern coast of Thailand. Apart from Rayong, the other two adjacent provinces that are covered under the EEC scheme are Chachoengsao and Chonburi. The other two airports are both in Bangkok.
Apisak said the government would like the areas around U-tapao to become an aviation hub.
The planned high-speed trains will allow better and faster connectivity between Bangkok and the EEC industrial zone.
The finance minister said Thailand needs better infrastructure to cut its logistic costs, which are now higher than those of the country's competitors. This will raise the country's competitiveness, he said.
Apisak also said that the government plans to turn the existing Laem Chabang port in Chonburi into a regional port, mentioning Rotterdam port in the Netherlands as a possible model.
Addressing the concern of the rising government's borrowing to invest in these projects, he said currently the government plans to suffer a fiscal deficit of over 400 billion baht (12.3 billion U.S. dollars) a year. He said for the 2019 fiscal year, the deficit is expected at 450 billion baht (13.8 billion U.S. dollars).
He said Thailand's public debts amount to only about 40-42 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), which is still far below the ceiling of 60 percent.
Apisak said the Finance Ministry has projected the country's economy to grow 4.5 percent for the year of 2018, saying a growth rate of 4-5 percent suits the current potential of the country.