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Time running out for Phuket Convention Center

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PHUKET: Time is running out on the plan to build a world-class conference and exhibition center in Phuket.

The project has been stalled by a single strand of red tape as the deadline to use the 2.6 billion baht in approved funding draws near.

Naris Chaiyasoot, Director-General of the Treasury Department, which has been tasked with building the mega-project, was quoted by Thai Post online this morning as saying that the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP) has still yet to approve project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report.

ONEP lists as its main concerns that the designated project site was once a nesting site for sea turtles and that the project’s long-term economic viability is questionable.

The project already has been approved 2.6bn baht in funding in 2012 under the Thai Khem Khaeng (Strong Thailand) economic stimulus package that was deployed under the previous Democrat-led government.

However, the contract to build the convention center must be signed by the end of July 2012 and the work must be completed by the end of 2014 under the terms of the funding.

If the construction contract is not inked by July next year, the funding will be returned to the state coffers and Phuket’s decades-old dream of having such a facility will return, once again, to square one.

Mr Naris, who has held several high-level positions in the Finance Ministry over the years, said his office had already sent a letter stating its concerns to ONEP and said he that expected a reply clarifying the situation “soon”.

News that the project’s EIA had failed to gain ONEP approval broke in early September, about one month after Yingluck Shinawatra took up office as the Thai premier– and at about the same time the lower central provinces were filling up with unprecedented volumes of flood water.

Two weeks later, both Pheu Thai Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit and Ministry of Finance General Inspector Prasit Suebchana reaffirmed their commitment to fight for Phuket’s convention center to go ahead.

Soon thereafter, the Phuket Governor’s office set up a multi-agency task force to lobby for the project, thus far without success.

 

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