Thailand places a priority on the development of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) as the best and most modern economic zone of ASEAN, under the Thailand 4.0 policy.
The EEC comprises three provinces, namely Chon Buri, Rayong, and Chachoengsao, which will be developed into a new city for special economic development and investment in target industries. Earlier, this area was under the Eastern Seaboard Development Program, which was launched as part of the Fifth National Economic and Social Development Plan, 1982-1986. In order to push for EEC development, the Thai government has mapped out a five-year investment plan on infrastructure development, to be implemented from 2017 to 2021. The plan, worth 1.5 trillion baht, consists of 15 projects, linking with transportation networks. Among these projects, five will be carried out as pilot projects. They include the development of (1) U-Tapao International Airport, (2) Phase 3 of Laem Chabang Port, (3) high-speed train and dual track rail systems, (4) New S-Curve industries, and (5) a new city. U-Tapao Airport, in particular, will link with Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Mueang Airport. These three airports will make Thailand an international aviation hub.
The EEC Management Committee, chaired by Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana, on 13 March 2017 agreed to submit the pilot projects to the EEC Development Policy Committee, chaired by Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, for approval, when the Prime Minister is scheduled to visit Rayong province on 5 April 2017 for the first meeting of the EEC Development Policy Committee. The EEC Management Committee also agreed to establish the “eastern aviation city,” or “Aeropolis,” in the vicinity of U-Tapao Airport to help promote the EEC.
A Digital Park will be set up at Si Racha in Chon Buri province, as part of EEC development, as well. The Cabinet on 28 February 2017 approved the tax incentives that would encourage experts and specialists from Thailand and all over the world to work in the EEC.
Under the tax measures, the experts will be able to choose to pay personal income tax in line with Thailand’s normal tax structure or pay a flat rate of 17 percent. To be entitled to the tax incentives, the experts and specialists must work for the 10 target industries comprising the First S-Curve and the New S-Curve. The Government expects that the EEC will help expand Thailand’s GDP by 5 percent annually. It will also generate employment opportunities for 100,000 people and increase tourist arrivals by 10 million each year.
Many private companies from Asia, Europe, and the United States have shown interest in investing in this development project. Aware of the importance of education as a major factor in developing human resources for the EEC, the Government is working out a comprehensive education management plan, linking the three provinces together, in order to produce a workforce for the EEC development program.