Sunday, 14 June 2015

Singapore happy that Thailand is stable: PM

Four bilateral pacts signed to boost trade, investment
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 12 Jun 2015

SINGAPORE is happy to see Thailand stable and progressing, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday, as the two sides signed four agreements to promote trade and investment in areas such as cruise tourism and creative media.

"The (Thai) Prime Minister briefed me just now on the steps he's taking within Thailand and the steps forward for Thailand in his road map," Mr Lee said on the first day of General Prayut Chan-o-cha's two-day visit here.

Gen Prayut, who led a coup in May last year, confirmed last month that Thailand's elections would be pushed back to September next year, to give the government time to prepare a referendum on a controversial draft Constitution.

In remarks translated into English, he thanked Mr Lee and the Singapore Government for "their understanding of the political situation in Thailand".

"Thailand has now returned to order and stability," said Gen Prayut, who met Mr Lee for the Singapore-Thailand Leaders' Retreat. This would contribute to the overall stability and security of Asean, and to Singapore-Thailand ties, he added.

Both leaders encouraged Singapore businesses to explore the opportunities Thailand has to offer.

"I have invited the private sector of Singapore to invest in designated special economic zones along the border areas between Thailand and neighbouring countries, as well as in infrastructure projects on transport and logistics of the country," said Gen Prayut, who will meet local business leaders over lunch today. Singapore has been Thailand's second-largest investor in the past few years and was its top investor from Asean in 2013, noted Mr Lee.

Earlier in the afternoon, the two leaders witnessed the inking of memoranda of understanding to cooperate in cruise tourism and creative media, avoid double taxation and boost business ties.

In particular, the cruise tourism agreement aims to boost cooperation and speed up the development of cruises between Singapore and Thailand, to tap the popularity of cruises in South-east Asia.

At the retreat, the leaders noted cyber security and counter-terrorism were two challenges facing the region, and stressed the importance of both countries cooperating to tackle them, said a Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement. They also reaffirmed their countries' commitment to bring about the Asean Economic Community by the year end.

Gen Prayut also paid a courtesy call on President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the Istana.

At a dinner Mr Lee hosted at the Istana, the PM reaffirmed the strong bilateral relationship between Singapore and Thailand, which was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic ties with the Republic 50 years ago.

Gen Prayut said that later this year, Thailand will host the Civil Service Exchange Programme and the Singapore-Thailand Enhanced Economic Relationship Ministerial Meeting.

The countries' good ties also extend to their people, said Mr Lee, with 800,000 Singaporeans visiting Thailand and 500,000 Thais coming here every year. Both countries are highly connected, with low-cost carriers offering direct flights to six Thai cities, he said.

"When I have a chance, I'm looking forward to trying one of these low-cost carriers to Krabi, or maybe I will take a cruise with my wife from Singapore to Thailand," Mr Lee added with a smile.

The prime ministers congratulated each other's countries on their showing at the SEA Games.

Today, Gen Prayut will watch the sepak takraw men's finals between Thailand and Myanmar, and visit the Marina Bay Cruise Centre.

Firms told of long-term opportunities in Thailand
By Chia Yan Min, The Straits Times, 13 Jun 2015

SINGAPORE firms were yesterday encouraged to seek out long-term growth opportunities in Thailand, despite the political turmoil that has buffeted the country in recent years.

A group of 17 business leaders who met visiting Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha were told that, while challenges remain, there are strong prospects in the infrastructure and consumer sectors.

The session, held during General Prayut's two-day visit here, was chaired by IE Singapore chairman Seah Moon Ming, with Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan in attendance. Gen Prayut led a military coup in May last year.

Despite political uncertainties and weak export sentiment, Thailand's economy is expected to grow 3.5 per cent this year, up from 0.8 per cent last year, trade promotion agency IE Singapore said yesterday.

"We also note that as the second-largest economy in South-east Asia and most integrated with the Indochina economies, Thailand's economy has proven resilient over the years," said IE Singapore chief executive Teo Eng Cheong.

Thailand is Singapore's third-largest investment destination in Asean after Indonesia and Malaysia, with a cumulative $19 billion worth of direct investments as of the end of 2013.

The Thai government's Infrastructure Development Plan, to improve transport links within the country and with its neighbours, will bring opportunities in sectors such as rail, aviation and cruise, said IE Singapore.

Singapore firms can offer expertise in project management, mechanical and electrical consultancy, operations and maintenance as well as supply of equipment.

In line with this, Gen Prayut visited the Marina Bay Cruise Centre during his trip.

Thailand also boasts a 67.7 million strong consumer market. Consumer spending accounted for 53.4 per cent of Thailand's gross domestic product last year.

Online shopping is also gaining traction, with a mobile penetration rate of 131 per cent.

Singapore firms with a presence in Thailand say it presents strong long-term prospects.

Pacific Integrated Logistics, for instance, is in the process of incorporating in Thailand.

The company will provide logistics support for companies in the oil and gas industry in Rayong, the centre of Thailand's chemical and automotive industries.

Its group executive director Leong Choon Cheng said the firm aims to take advantage of Thailand's position as a "land hub sitting between India and China", as well as the Asean Economic Community, due to come into force by year end. "There has occasionally been turmoil in Thailand but, as a business, we have a longer-term view."

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