Infrastructure megaprojects under the government's 2-trillion-baht scheme should focus on connectivity among different transportation systems and develop a single command to ensure efficient coordination and bring about maximum benefits, says an expert.
The newest Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge links Chiang Rai’s Chiang Khong district with Huay Xai in Laos. Constructed at a cost of 1.48 billion baht and funded by the governments of China, Laos and Thailand, it will open late this year. PATTARAPONG CHATPATTARASILL
William McWilliams, a partner in the international consulting firm Grant Thornton, said as the economy grows, the government needs to consider developing an interconnected mass transit system that will result in time-saving and efficiency in terms of moving people from one place to another.
In an interview with the Bangkok Post, he said Germany has developed an efficient mass transit system in central Berlin that connects high-speed trains with commuter lines as well as all mass transit system in one place.
Interconnectivity has a wider economic impact, linking economic activities as the projects connect regional cities with the capital, said Mr McWilliams.
He said since Bangkok has been a centre of economic activity for decades, interconnectivity also has the potential to increase the level of economic redistribution to other regions.
In order to enhance coordination, he said the government needs to recognise the need to develop an overarching authority to oversee project coordination since the nature of the project's investment portfolio is joint-oriented.
"With appropriate governance and framework, an overarching authority is an important key in ensuring efficient coordination and decision-making processes between involved parties," he said.
Regarding cross-border transport, Mr McWilliams said managing different transport operators to create a mutual framework and establishing a common system remain as challenges that the government needs to solve.
A regulatory framework on cross-border commercial and economic activities has to be decided by the government and concession operators in order to maximise the benefits for both the public and private sectors, he said.
Infrastructure development in the Greater Mekong Subregion should progress in accordance with the pace of economic development in the respective countries, said Mr McWilliams, adding that Thailand is in a different investment cycle from its neighbours since the country has robustly developed infrastructure projects in the past.
He said the infrastructure megaprojects point towards a long-term investment strategy for the economic well-being and vibrant growth of the country despite concerns it will take 50 years to repay the money borrowed for the investments.
With more than 17 years' experience in infrastructure and transport development, Mr McWilliams has provided consultation services for governments and companies on high-speed train projects and rail concessions.
Regarding infrastructure financing, Mr McWilliams said the government needs to analyse and understand market risks in terms of demand and supply to come up with an effective public-private partnership (PPP) programme.
"By its nature, PPP is a very structured process and involves external finance. The government has to come up with a structured process to deliver the infrastructure projects to ensure robust development for the concession companies," said Mr McWilliams.
He also recommended the government develop an advanced transit system in line with future technology such as using commuters' mobiles instead of standard tickets for entrance and topping up.
Mr McWilliams said how the authorities engage technology with the market is crucial for generating revenue for the projects.
Research and development should also play a part in infrastructure development, he added.
About the author
- Writer: Pathom Sangwongwanich
Position: Business Reporter