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. Thai cabinet approves 41 billion dollars in major infrastructure projects
PHAYAO, Thailand (AFP) Jun 14, 2005
Thailand's cabinet Tuesday earmarked 1.70 trillion baht (41.56 billion dollars) to fund massive infrastructure projects over the next five years, officials said.

About one quarter of the amount, 423.43 billion baht, is allocated for mass transit projects including buses and the extension of Bangkok's subway system.

Nineteen percent of the budget, or 328.61 billion baht, is reserved for other transport projects including roads and bridges, according to figures released at a cabinet meeting held in northern Thailand.

Other projects coming under the outlay involve housing, water resources, education and public health.

"It is important to increase the capacity of the country. This is an opportunity to promote our economy," Suranand Vejjajiva, minister in the prime minister's office, told reporters.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has stressed that spending heavily on infrastructure could help boost the economy.

About 42 percent of the funding will come from domestic and international loans, while 39 percent is to be drawn from the government budget and 13 percent will come from income derived from state enterprises.

The budget must still be submitted to parliament for approval.

Thailand's government last month approved an overall budget of 1.36 trillion baht (34 billion dollars) in the 2006 fiscal year.

The government expects infrastructure spending to invigorate growth over the five years, with gross domestic product growing at an average of 5.48 percent annually.

The government's economic thinktank last week cut Thailand's projected annual GDP growth to 4.5-5.5 percent from its forecast of 5.5-6.5 percent in March, citing high oil prices, drought, the effects of last December's tsunami and a slowing world economy.

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