Policy continuity assured as Thailand goes to polls: UOB

Pheu Thai Party prime minister candidate Sudarat Keyuraphan greets supporters in a campaign rally ahead of the March 24 general election.
Pheu Thai Party prime minister candidate Sudarat Keyuraphan greets supporters in a campaign rally ahead of the March 24 general election.
MARCH 11, 2019 - 6:10 PM

AS THAILAND heads to the polls on March 24, the formation of a democratic government will likely restore foreign investors' confidence and boost growth prospects, with policy continuity supported by the legally binding 20-year National Strategy, said UOB economist Manop Udomkerdmongkol in a March 11 note.

On the back of mega-project investments, UOB expects the Thai economy to grow between 3.5 per cent to 4 per cent each year for the next five years.

Infrastructure is set to be a major growth driver as Thailand moves to investment-led growth, and the Eastern Economic Corridor in turn is an important part of the picture, with mega-projects including U-Tapao International Airport, a high-speed train linking three airports, the Map Ta Phut Industrial Port phase three, and the Leam Chabang Port phase three.

The next government is expected to continue with planned transport infrastructure and Eastern Economic Corridor investment, said Mr Manop, who sees a higher chance of the polls resulting in a coalition government with a majority of the seats, rather than a minority one.

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Markets are likely to await the official results, due within 60 days of the vote, he added, with the new government likely to be in place ahead of the first of two Asean summits in Thailand in June.

The upcoming elections will be the country's first since a military coup almost five years ago, with the new mixed-member proportional voting system raising the chances of a coalition government, compared to the previous majority vote system. A poll by the National Institute of Development Administration found General Prayut Chan-o-cha of the Palang Pracharat Party to be the most popular choice for Prime Minister, supported by 38.6 per cent of respondents, although the Pheu Thai Party was the most favoured party.

Regardless of outcome, policy continuity will be supported by the National Strategy for 2018-2037, which came into force last year. Future government policies are obliged to be consistent with the two-decade development plan. The plan itself is tough to change as doing so would require approval from a joint session of the lower and upper houses, noted Mr Manop.