Interview : Kanit Sangsubhan
How does the EEC Act balance attracting investment and managing natural resources?
SANGSUBHAN KANIT: We drafted the EEC Act so that it benefits both investors and communities, while providing long-term sustainability in the corridor. The aim of the initiative is to develop the EEC in a systematic and sustainable manner. Advanced technologies in both commercial and industrial activities will be used in accordance with environmental best practices. To create a framework that is attractive to investors, we have made one-stop shop services, tax incentives and other benefits widely available.
Regarding the protection of natural resources and the environment, Section 8 of the EEC Act has established strict procedures to undertake environmental health impact assessments. We also have a special committee – the National Environmental Committee – looking into any potential environmental issues related to the EEC, which Sections 60-64 have set aside funds to resolve.
What role do you see the EEC playing in the development of e-commerce in Asia?
KANIT: We foresee the EEC playing a very big role in the development of e-commerce. First, in terms of logistics, the EEC is strategically located: it can serve as not only a connectivity centre in ASEAN, but also Asia’s gateway to markets in Africa, the Middle East and Europe through the integration of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. With that in mind, the EEC will enable Thailand to become a regional logistics and transport hub through which e-commerce goods and other types of trade will flow. The development of the EEC will strengthen the efficiency and safety of regional logistics and supply chain networks, which will improve last-mile delivery and accelerate the market’s transition towards e-commerce. Alibaba, for example, already expressed interest in investing in the EEC. The Eastern Airport City aviation project, known as Aerotropolis, and highway extensions will further support this evolution.
Second, regarding innovation and technology, the EEC provides an ecosystem for entrepreneurs and corporates seeking to innovate or conduct research and development through the EEC of Innovation and the Digital Park Thailand. The establishment of innovation clusters could also promote e-commerce-related start-ups and platforms.
How might the government capitalise on tourism growth to further increase investment in services-based industries in the EEC?
KANIT: The government is looking to capitalise on the impressive growth in tourism to spur the EEC’s expansion beyond infrastructure and industry. As an area-based development, the EEC should be a metropolitan extension of Bangkok. This means it will include urban, residential and commercial projects such as smart cities, medical and health care facilities, entertainment, and modern lifestyle activities and platforms. All stakeholders would benefit from tourists visiting the EEC, which is essentially an amalgamation of Chonburi, where Pattaya and Rayong are already major tourist destinations.
To further channel international and local tourists into the EEC, the high-speed rail connecting the Suvarnabhumi, Don Muang and U-Tapao airports will be vital. This will provide an easy, efficient and convenient means of travelling in and out of the corridor. A large number of tourists would also enter the country via U-Tapao International Airport, thus making the EEC the first destination and gateway for tourists in Thailand. The planned Sattahip cruise ship terminal would also bring more high-spending international tourists into the region.
With these developments, we are confident that the EEC will advance our domestic economy and expand the number of services-based industries.