Thursday, March 8, 2012

PM heartens Japanese investors Yingluck assures floods will not pose new threat

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, on a visit to Tokyo, has reassured powerful Japanese investors there will be no repeat of last year's flood fiasco.
Speaking at a joint press conference with her counterpart, Yoshihiko Noda, Ms Yingluck said measures were being put in place to protect investors from being hurt financially in the event of another flood disaster.
However, the Japanese government and business leaders yesterday called on Thailand for more accurate and timely information about the water situation.
Measures to fight future flooding were the main concern for the Japanese government and investors.
"I have reaffirmed to the Japanese government and business leaders that the Royal Thai government is committed to ensuring that the devastation caused by such disasters will never happen again," Ms Yingluck said.
Mr Noda said Thailand and Japan, in the nations' 125th year of diplomatic relations, shared the same basic values and remain strategic partners.
He said the two countries "agreed to enhance cooperative relations in the areas of space, railway and information computer technology development at a time that Thailand needs to build infrastructure following the floods".
Ms Yingluck is on an official visit to Japan until tomorrow. Her high-profile trip with key cabinet ministers aims to instil confidence in Japanese investors who saw their factories ravaged by the flooding last year.
Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano and chairman of the Japan External Trade Organisation Hiroyuki Ishigi raised the same concern about the need for accurate and quick information about flooding in separate talks with her.
Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman Nobuo Yamaguchi urged the Thai government to quickly undertake flood prevention plans so investors could stop worrying about further damage to their projects.
The government was criticised for sending conflicting signals and information about the floods while battling the water run-off especially when it was approaching Ayutthaya, Pathum Thani and Bangkok last year. Critics have said the government underestimated the volume of water leading to the worst floods in 50 years.
Several Japanese industries are located in the two provinces and Bangkok.
Japan is Thailand's top trading partner and largest investor. Last year alone, Thai exports to Japan were up 8.3% and investments from Japan made up 49% of total foreign direct investment. Despite the floods, tourists from Japan also rose 13% to 1.1 million last year.
But the floods last year raised concerns about the possible relocation of Japanese plants to other countries if the kingdom does not have better protection measures in place.
"I am pleased to inform you that we are in the process of implementing an effective water management system to protect the communities and the important economic and industrial zones," Ms Yingluck said in a speech at a business forum hosted by Keidanren, Japan's largest business lobby.
The prime minister detailed measures including lowering the water levels in several dams so that they can store more water during the coming rainy season, the setting up of water retention areas, the improvements of sluice gates, canals, pumping stations and dykes.
Higher barriers are being built to protect industrial parks from flooding and roads will be elevated to prevent supply chain disruption, she said.
Ms Yingluck also pledged better coordination among officials in a single command centre and said: "We are also improving forecasting and early warning systems."
The prime minister said budget would not be a problem on the implementation of all plans as 18 billion baht had been set aside for this year and another 350 billion baht for the years to come.
The government also had low interests rate loans for Japanese firms to build protection barriers and insurance funds to help Japanese companies affected by the flooding, she said.