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Thailand raises investment target in wake of referendum

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Thailand has raised its target for investment pledges this year to US$15.9 billion, officials said on Thursday, hoping that sentiment improved after Thais voted to accept a new military-backed constitution that paves the way for an election in 2017.

[BANGKOK] Thailand has raised its target for investment pledges this year to US$15.9 billion, officials said on Thursday, hoping that sentiment improved after Thais voted to accept a new military-backed constitution that paves the way for an election in 2017.

Having seized power in the May 2014 coup to end prolonged protests, the ruling junta has focused on promoting investment in a bid to pull Southeast Asia's second-largest economy out of a rut as it faces weak exports and domestic demand.

Overall investment applications are now expected to rise to 550 billion baht (S$21.26 billion) this year from 450 billion baht projected earlier, Hirunya Suchinai, secretary-general of the Board of Investment, told reporters on Thursday.

"Investment sentiment is getting better and more supportive. That's why we raised our target for investment applications by 100 billion baht," she said.

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The new target would be 152 per cent higher than 2015, when a new investment policy targeting more value-added industry and services led to a slump in investment pledges.

In 2015, overall investment applications fell to about 218 billion baht from a record 1.9 trillion baht in 2014 as firms rushed through plans before the policy changes.

With the Aug 7 referendum "yes" vote taking away some of the political uncertainty, more foreign investors have expressed interest in investing in Thailand, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said. "The uncertainty is now gone so we believe investment flows will keep coming in," he told reporters.

Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) is interested in investing Thailand's infrastructure fund, and Singapore's Temasek is keen on buying stakes in Thai firms and infrastructure projects, Mr Somkid said.

In January-July, both Thai and foreign investment pledges rose 218 percent from a year earlier to 320.7 billion baht, with interest concentrated in the farming, automobile and auto-parts sectors, Ms Hirunya said.

Actual investment was about 200 billion baht in the first six months of this year, she added.

REUTERS

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