Thailand investment applications double in Jan-Feb

[BANGKOK] Thailand's investment applications nearly doubled in the first two months of 2016, mainly in the technology, farm and chemical industries, helped by new policies launched last year, the investment agency said on Friday.

Foreign and Thai firms submitted investment applications worth a combined 32.44 billion baht (US$931.9 million), up 96 percent from the same period a year earlier, the Board of Investment said.

Foreign firms alone applied to invest 12.5 billion baht, a five-fold jump.

The big increase, however, also reflects a low comparitive base in 2015, when the government introduced new policies that led to a slump in submissions that year.

The government hopes the new policies targetting industrial clusters and value-added sectors will draw foreign investors back to Thailand, which has been under military rule since a coup in May 2014 ended prolonged political unrest.

Faced with poor exports and sluggish domestic demand, the junta has focused on promoting investment to help pull Southeast Asia's second-largest economy out of a rut. "We have continued to organise events to tell our policies domestically and abroad...and found that most investors remain confident to invest in Thailand," Hirunya Suchinai, secretary-general of the investment board, said in a statement.

The agency expects its target of 450 billion baht in overall investment applications will be achieved, she said.

Hirunya told Reuters last month she expected foreign investment proposals in Thailand to jump 82 per cent this year to 194 billion baht from 2015, when they plunged to 106.5 billion.

"It's a good sign for the government, but we have to see if they can continue to keep this up. It's vital to reassure investors that politics are stable and government policies clear," said Piyasak Manason, chief economist of Kiatnakin Bank. "I'm worried they may just be applications and may not necessarily mean actual investment," he added.


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