Thai PM’s party vows to prioritise foreign investments ahead of May election

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha campaigns as the PM candidate for the United Thai Nation Party (Ruam Thai Sang Chart Party) ahead of a general election this year in Thailand. - Reuters

BANGKOK, May 24 (Bloomberg): Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha’s political party will prioritise attracting foreign investments to bolster the country’s economic recovery, as the leader bids to stay in power ahead of the May general election.

United Thai Nation Party vowed to also continue with big-ticket infrastructure projects and cash handout schemes started earlier to offset rising costs of living.

As Thai political parties ramp up election campaigns and announce their policies, Prayut unveiled members of his party’s economic team on Thursday, including energy minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow and Thailand’s trade representative Chayotid Kridakon.

"We must prioritize income generation for the country by making Thailand an attractive investment destination,” Supattanapong, who was tasked with advising the party on household debts, told reporters.

Prayut, who dissolved parliament earlier this week, is betting the return of millions of tourists and billions of dollars in stimulus programs to boost Southeast Asia’s second largest economy and his election prospects. However, he’s facing voter discontent arising from high living costs and an uneven economic recovery.

His party, which was set up only in 2021 to back Prayut as a prime minister candidate, is also facing competition from main political parties trying to woo voters with promises from steep increases in cash handouts and wages to suspending debt repayment.

A survey published on March 19 showed Prayut falling to the third position in the ranking of preferred prime minister candidates.

The party will also increase cash handouts to help low-income households cover daily expenses and small businesses cope with rising prices, Supattanapong said, as a large section of Thai society, especially the daily-wage earners, farmers and small and medium enterprises, are still reeling from the impact of the pandemic.

Thailand saw a surge in new investment applications last year by 39% to 664 billion baht as foreign companies pledged to invest in sectors from electronics to electric vehicles.

The country now expected foreign and local companies to pump in about 2 trillion baht into sectors such as EVs, smart electronics and technologies by 2030. - Bloomberg

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