Thailand Asserts Financial Leadership in Southeast Asia
Thailand is forming and leading a new Southeast Asian fund for infrastructure and development projects, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told a Summit in Bangkok Saturday to counter reliance on China and the other Asian giants.
The fund, which Thailand will jointly manage with 4 countries in the region: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam is expected to begin operations in Y 2019.
“Thailand wants to emphasize the importance of a sustainable source of funding,” PM Prayuth told a Summit of the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS).
A Key aim is to lessen reliance on funding from China and other Asian giants said Arthayud Srisamoot, an official of the foreign ministry.
Thailand would contribute a “substantial amount of money” to start the fund, he added.
The fund will raise money through the sale of stocks and bonds by issuing debt for projects, Arthayud said, adding that it would welcome financial contributions from countries and institutions beyond Southeast Asia.
Previous regional infrastructure projects of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) grouping have made little progress, because of conflicting interests.
China has been investing heavily in infrastructure in Southeast Asia, in line with its Belt and Road initiative, as well as in energy and property, which has spurred concern about the region’s growing economic dependence on it.
China has committed to spending nearly $12-B in loans and grants in Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
At a regional Summit this year in Cambodia, 1 of the region’s top beneficiaries of Chinese investment, government leaders agreed to consider a 2nd group of Chinese-funded projects, in addition to 132 projects approved in Y 2016.
Chinese-backed infrastructure projects in the region include a $5.5-B railway scheme to link Thailand’s eastern seaboard with southern China, via land-locked Laos.
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