HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Fuel prices pegged

Thailand will become leader in Southeast Asia in next 5 years

MOF organizes foreign road shows

New consumer protection board to be created

Thai companies go on Iraqi road show

SME Bank joins with provincial governors to create new entrepreneurs

Fuel prices pegged

The government has finally stepped in to curb soaring gasoline prices in the domestic market, pegging the prices of benzene octane 95, benzene octane 91, and diesel at 16.99 baht, 16.19 baht, and 14.59 baht respectively.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra met with top-ranked officials of the Ministry of Energy at the Government House and said the government had finally decided to intervene in the domestic oil market after monitoring the world oil situation, and seeing that world oil prices rose in an irregular trend against the market mechanism.

“The new intervention, like the one the government announced during the war in Iraq in early 2003, will be temporary, around only two months, aimed to curb prices of consumers goods and services in the domestic market”, Thaksin stated.

Thaksin said the government believed that world oil prices would continue to drop after the Chinese New Year festival.

“Given the implementation of the oil-price ceilings, the government sees no reason for local traders and entrepreneurs to raise their prices of goods and services and all the prices must stay unchanged”, stressed the Thai leader.

“Another point I have to clarify is that after the world oil prices begin to drop, expected in early February, the government will not immediately end the current oil-peg measure, but maintain it for a certain period of time to collect some money for the oil-fund, meaning that domestic oil prices will not immediately drop when the world oil prices decline early next month”, Thaksin said.

It is expected that the government will use no more than 5.0 billion baht to compensate to local oil firms during the pegged oil-price period, according to Thaksin. (TNA)

Thailand will become leader in Southeast Asia in next 5 years

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra says he is confident that Thailand will become the top-ranking country in Southeast Asia within the next five years, given its impressive economic growth and successful solution to the country’s problems in many areas.

Delivering a special lecture on “New Dimension on Management and Strengthening of Economy,” Thaksin said new leaders need to improve themselves in all dimensions and always learn more. “They must understand the political, economic and social development; otherwise, they would be unable to lead the country to catch up with other ones,” he said.

Thaksin said, “As an executive I am aware that the country’s problems can not be solved if attention is paid to external factors only. The government needs to take into account both internal and external factors to cope with the problem successfully.”

He conceded that Thailand still lagged behind many countries in term of economic development. But he was confident it would emerge to be the top-ranking country in Southeast Asia within the next five years.

Last year Thailand’s exports grew 16%, and are expected to continue to expand in the following years. According to Thaksin, in the past two years, since his government has been administrating the country, most economic sectors have expanded.

Some critics have expressed fears the Taksin government would make the country’s economy collapse like that in Argentina without thorough consideration of actual figures, he mentioned.

Responding to this view, Thaksin said, “Everybody, even fools, realize the that Thai economy has picked up, as could be witnessed by an increase in international reserve to US$42 billion, and the early debt repayment with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).”

The Thai PM added that the country now enjoyed a current account surplus of up to US$7.5 billion, or around 300 billion baht, as the economy grew at a rate of 6.3 percent and the inflation rate stayed at 1.8 percent. Given these factors, the premier said, he was confident the country would not have foreign debts within three years of his government’s administration. (TNA)

MOF organizes foreign road shows

The Ministry of Finance (MOF) is organizing a mass collection of foreign road shows from the end of January onwards in a bid to generate greater understanding among foreign investors, and to attract more investment to Thailand.

Finance Minister Suchart Jaovisidha’s itinerary will include Singapore, London and Boston, where the minister hopes to educate potential investors on Thailand’s economic situation and privatization plans. In March, Suchart will travel to Tokyo, which together with the first three destinations forms one of Thailand’s most important sources of investment. (TNA)

New consumer protection board to be created

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has ordered the establishment of a consumer protection board to boost the protection offered to Thai consumers. He said that the consumer protection policy committee would oversee the three agencies currently responsible for consumer protection.

The agencies include the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Department of Internal Trade, and the existing Consumer Protection Board. (TNA)

Thai companies go on Iraqi road show

The Thai government sent 13 companies to participate in a road show on the reconstruction of Iraq to vie for projects worth over US$50 billion. Thailand was one of 19 countries participating in the road show, which was held in Kuwait on 19-21 January.

Sponsored by Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheik Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the 2004 Iraqi reconstruction road show was the largest international event of its kind to be held in Kuwait for 50 years.

Companies from the 19 countries, which included those from the Middle East, Europe, Australia and Asia, proposed projects worth a total of over US$50 billion. It is thought that the reconstruction of Iraq over the next five years will cost as much as US$100 billion.

Most of the contractors in the initial stages of the reconstruction process will be US and UK companies. Nonetheless, the Kuwaiti government described the road show as a golden opportunity for companies providing equipment for communications in commercial airports, airport parts, airport services, transportation equipment, construction services and security services.

The Kuwaiti government has also noted that all of Iraq’s ports require substantial and urgent development, while there is also an urgent need for health services, agricultural and environmental services, air conditioning systems, information technology and hotels. (TNA)

SME Bank joins with provincial governors to create new entrepreneurs

The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Bank (SME Bank) has announced that it would join hands with ‘CEO-style’ provincial governors to create 100 new entrepreneurs in each province. Bank director Chotisak Asaphawiriya said that the bank expected that the collaboration would see the creation of several new entrepreneurs. He said that the bank was also working to slash red tape within the organization in order to speed up the process of providing credit to SME customers.

This year the bank hopes to extend loans worth 36 billion baht, up from 30 billion baht last year. The bank will focus on providing loans to cluster businesses in seven industries.

Later this year the bank will celebrate is first anniversary by holding a ‘SMEs Plus 2004’ event, where entrepreneurs will be offered special concessions for loan analysis. (TNA)