New Transport Minister, Saksayam Chidchob, has announced new second terminals for airports in Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai. He also moved to have contracts signed for the high-speed rail link between Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi Airports in Bangkok and U-Tapao in Rayong within the Eastern Economic Corridor. Meanwhile, the Higher Education Minister, Suvit Maesincee, has warned that change is coming to Thai universities. In a strong statement, he pointed to the declining birth rate and disruptive technology while arguing that the institutions must adapt to retraining older and existing workers soon to be displaced in the new digital Thai economy of the future.

On Friday, the IMF gave strong reassurance to the Thai government that Thailand’s economy was moving ahead and growing, driven by strong domestic consumption and capital programmes. The international organisation also highlighted the strength of Thailand’s international reserves and pointed to this as a key strength of Thailand’s economic situation which will allow it to navigate any choppy economic waters which might arise in the world economy as trade tensions grow. The International Monetary Fund made a presentation to the new Minister of Finance and urged the government to get behind its investment plans for the Eastern Economic Corridor and social welfare provisions aimed at nearly 15 million less off Thai people.

New Finance Minister, Uttama Savanayana, was told last Friday by the IMF that Thailand’s economy was still growing driven by domestic demand and government capital expenditure despite a downturn in exports. The International Monetary Fund head of mission to Thailand, Lamin YM Leigh, highlighted Thailand’s strong international reserves and predicted that the country could weather any future increased trade tensions that may emerge. The IMF team stressed this as a possibility to the incoming minister but predicted that the Thai economy will continue to grow.

It has been a good start for Thailand’s government this week after ministers took to their desks on Thursday morning. On Friday, the IMF met with the new Thai Finance Minister, Uttama Savanayana, and presented a pretty positive picture of the current state of the Thai economy despite the downturn in exports and the expanding fallout attributed to the US-China trade war and highly valued Thai baht.

IMF report explains why the Thai baht has become such a favourite with international investors

The report presented to Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana highlighted many of the grounds that have made Thailand a favourite with international investors since the beginning of the year. The IMF highlighted the strength of Thailand’s international reserves as a pillar that will enable the Thai economy to maintain its balance even if trade tensions get worse and world economic conditions deteriorate. The IMF team did warn that the government should be prepared for such conditions, however. 

Robust domestic consumption helps keep growth moving forward in Thailand

The report was made to the Thai finance minister by a team led by Lamin YM Leigh as part of the IMF official role and remit. The economists at the International Monetary Fund, while they accepted that the US-China trade war had hit Thailand, nevertheless showed that economic growth was maintained at a lower level, led by the Thai government’s capital and infrastructure spending programmes coupled with robust consumption in the domestic market.

The report to the finance minister assumed that domestic consumption in Thailand is poised to grow further as well the government’s capital expenditure programmes. This has been given a boost this last week as the new government got down to business.

Praise for the Thai government’s commitment to financial discipline and transparency

Mr Leigh, the IMF official who is its head of mission for Thailand, also praised the last government’s landmark finance bill passed by the old National Legislative Assembly in 2018 which copperfastens financial discipline in government and contains provisions that increase public transparency when it comes to government expenditure.

IMF urges progress on Eastern Economic Corridor and social welfare card plans

Mr Leigh urged the government on with its ambitious investment programme to attract new and advanced digital industry to locations being developed within the Eastern Economic Corridor comprised of the three Thai provinces of Chachoengsao, Rayong and Chonburi. It also encouraged plans to expand social welfare to nearly 15 million less well off Thai people with a social welfare card.

The IMF boss highlighted the infrastructural projects linked to the Easter Economic Corridor and the Thai government’s overall commitment to improving communications links such as airports, railways and ports for trade.

IMF echoed calls from the new Higher Education Minister in Thailand for universities to adapt to a new role driven by disruption and lower birth rate

Mr Leigh echoed the new Thai Minister for Higher Education this weekend when he highlighted that Thailand needs to address training not just for young people in education but all age groups and classes to allow the country to fulfil the ambitious mission set out in the Thailand 4.0 programme which aims to make Thailand a digital economy with higher levels of earnings. To do this, Mr Leigh highlighted the need to retrain and help the workforce in Thailand adapt.

Thailand must retrain older workers

Over the weekend, the new Minister of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation, Suvit Maesincee, said that universities must radically alter their approach. He pointed to the decline in the birth rate and the need to train old workers to the new emerging economy. In a hard-hitting statement, the new minister said universities must prepare for disruption. ‘Technologies have evolved to a point where people can learn anytime, anywhere. Disruption has been moving fast. If universities do not adjust, they will be left behind,’ Mr Surin said. He highlighted the new means and trend towards distance learning in his statement.

Finance minister promises the green light for projects linked with Eastern Economic Corridor

The finance minister, in response to the IMF presentation on Friday, stated that the Thai government was pushing ahead with infrastructural developments in private-public partnerships and was actively promoting the Eastern Economic Corridor for foreign firms to invest.

Transport minister moves on Don Muang, Suvarnabhumi and U-Tapao rail link contract signed

This commitment was confirmed later when Transport Minister, Saksayam Chidchob, announced that he had instructed his department to request that the State Railway of Thailand expedite the handover of lands so that the project to build a rail link between Don Muang, Suvarnabhumi and U-Tapao Airports can go ahead. U-Tapao Airport is situated in the Eastern Economic Corridor in Rayong province and is in proximity to Pattaya.

The cabinet has already approved the ฿182.5 billion project. The move should allow contracts to be signed with Thai conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Holdings who were awarded the contract to build the new line.

New second airport terminals in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket get the go-ahead

Separately, Mr Saksayam who is a Bhumjaithai Party minister, announced approval for new second airport terminals at Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok, Chiang Mai International Airport and the international airport in Phuket. The project at Phuket International Airport will be the biggest one at ฿75 billion while ฿55 billion will be spent in Chiang Mai and ฿42 billion in Bangkok. The new transport minister said that the expansion in Chiang Mai and Phuket alone will allow those cities to cater for an additional 10 million passengers per year.

The new boss at the transport ministry said the department’s budget of  ฿210 billion including capital expenditures was being reviewed. At present, half the ฿210 billion is available for capital expenditure and the balance for salaries and overheads. A new budget plan is later to be presented to the cabinet.

Read more of our ongoing coverage of the economy in Thailand:

Government to introduce new economic stimulus package to boost Thai economy in emerging downturn

Senior bank figure suggests an interest rate cut in Thailand can not be ruled out to tackle economy

Thai industry must adapt to new technology, a big factor in a new, more competitive world economy

Crunch for Thai economy as exports dive. Fears that Thai baht has become a focus of speculation

Thailand faces a new world economy driven by Trump’s economic agenda, not a global one in a new world order