HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]: 

Ethanol prices should be based on MTBE

SIPA eyes Pattaya as a new ICT City

Border customs to get one-stop-service centers

Cabinet approves tax reduction measures

Stricter restaurant checks to be implimented

Internet cafes applaud government initiative

GSB to issue new bonds

Thai food wins favor in France

Bid to slash gasohol price

Former PM says government must speed up search for energy sources

Manual Labor and Public Utility Committees meet to discuss improvements

Ethanol prices should be based on MTBE

The government should set ethanol prices based mainly on Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) prices on the world market so that producers can calculate costs and produce ethanol in quantities oil traders can afford, according to Nattapol Nattasomboon, director of the National Ethanol Commission Office. He disclosed that Thai Agro Co. was set to become the third ethanol producer after Thai Alcohol and Pornvilai International with a daily capacity of 120,000 liters this month.

But lately, the company remained unable to find customers who could afford the ethanol purchase because oil companies failed to confirm their intention to buy the alternative fuel for sale. Nattapol stressed it was the Energy Ministry’s duty to seek an approach to press the oil firms to bring the ethanol to mix with gasoline for sale in the form of gasohol. “We admit we are not in a position to compel oil firms to purchase ethanol. What we can do is to find suppliers only. It is the Energy Ministry’s duty to set a clear policy on the matter,” he said.

Nattapol said unless Thai Agro was able to find customers in the first phase of production, it would be allowed to supply a portion of ethanol through Thai Alcohol. Under the plant establishment contract, Thai Alcohol is required to export 100,000 liters per day out of the daily ethanol production of 200,000 liters.

An oil trader said most traders were normally willing to purchase ethanol if prices of the alternative fuel were fixed based on prices of MTBE, a substance used to add octane in benzene. (TNA)

SIPA eyes Pattaya as a new ICT City

Pattaya could become Thailand’s latest ‘ICT City’ under plans by the Software Industry Promotion Agency (SIPA) to boost the town’s information and communications technology capability.

Both SIPA and the Pattaya authorities are in agreement that the tourist resort would make a suitable location for ICT development, thanks to its advantages in terms of transportation links, tourism and industry.

“After talking with SIPA, Pattaya will set up a community to study and lay down the framework for the town’s development, inviting private and public sector representatives to discuss and determine what approaches we are to take. We will aim to reach a conclusion as soon as possible so that we can request funding from the government”, Banthit Siritanyong, the advisor to the Pattaya City mayor, said.

The project would aim to reduce the information gap between older and younger generations although the development of Pattaya would possibly follow a different trajectory from the development of ICT cities in other provinces such as Phuket and Khon Kaen.

With a focus on the development of e-government services, the project will also emphasize education, business and tourism development. Pattaya is viewed as an ideal location due to its relative proximity to the new Suwanabhumi Airport, the Laem Chabang Port and industrial estates, as well as several popular tourist destinations. (TNA)

Border customs to get one-stop-service centers

Thailand plans to introduce one-stop service centers at some of the country’s border towns to help speed up customs procedures for traders, according to a senior customs official.

“One-stop centers will be established initially at four border checkpoints - Mae Sai checkpoint in northern Chiang Rai Province, Mae Sot checkpoint in Tak Province, Aranyaprathet checkpoint in Prachinburi Province bordering Cambodia, and another one in nearby Mukdaharn Province,” said the country’s chief customs official, Sathit Limpongpan.

“The one-stop-service center will cut down on the time consuming paperwork for cross-border traders and should also help increase the value of bilateral trade with our neighboring countries,” said Sathit.

Border trade has long been an important part of the Thai economy. Customs officials hope to provide a speedier service to traders to help boost border trade.

“Usually, to import certain goods from neighboring Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, local traders need special licenses. They must acquire these from various ministries – including the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry and the Ministry of Health. In the past they had to make special trips to Bangkok and waste their time. In the near future, our one-stop-service centers at the border check points will issue all licenses on the spot. This will save a lot of time and effort, and allow the goods to be processed quickly. Thailand’s neighbors are expected to soon introduce a similar service for traders on their side of the border. Thai customs will begin a one-day-clearance service for cross-border traders from early next month. We will reduce the week-long process to only one day to save traders time and money,” Sathit said. (TNA)

Cabinet approves tax reduction measures

The cabinet has approved tax reduction measures for social support and assistance to low and medium income earners and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), Finance Minster Somkid Jatusripitak disclosed.

The finance minister said the measures, if successfully implemented, would benefit the overall Thai economy since people would have more money left for spending and saving. It would also help boost local consumption, which could be used in place of state spending to drive the country’s economic growth. More importantly, he said, the tax reduction for SMEs would enable entrepreneurs to use money earned from the measures to expand their business.

Sirote Swasdipanich, director-general of the Revenue Department, said although the tax cut measures would cost the government more than 8.2 billion baht; the revenue loss had already been set aside.

Under the approved measures, an amount subject to a waiver on the personal income tax after deduction shall increase to 100,000 baht from 80,000 baht, applicable for incomes earned this year.

SMEs with a register capital of no more than 5 million baht shall be subject to a corporate tax of 15% collected on net profits of the first amount of one million baht, compared with 20% under the existing tax collection system.

For net profits of more than that amount, they will be subject to the same corporate tax rate of 15%, not to the progressive tax rate, applicable for companies or partnerships established in the accounting period on or after January 1, 2004. SMEs that earn revenue of no more than 1.8 million baht are not subject to value-added taxes.

The amount edges up from no more than 1.2 million baht under the existing system. This is applicable for revenue earned from April 1, 2005 onward. (TNA)

Stricter restaurant checks to be implimented

Under new strict food quality controls, restaurants and food stalls which fail to meet the government’s required standards on three consecutive occasions will face permanent closure, according to Public Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan. She made her remarks after inspecting restaurants located along Ekkamai-Ram Intra Road. Two well-known restaurants there have failed the first inspection, she said.

These two restaurants, and any others that fail the first test, will have to improve their service and health standards before the second test. If fail they again, the Bangkok municipal authorities will issue notices that will be posted on their premises warning customers that they have twice failed to meet the government’s minimum standards, the minister warned.

Under local Bangkok regulations, restaurants and food stalls could be permanently closed if they fail the test three times in a row. The public health minister is currently trying to make the public and restaurants operators aware of the government’s ‘Clean Food Good Taste’ Program.

“Nearly 40 percent of Bangkok restaurants and food stalls have already been awarded the ‘Clean Food Good Taste’ Certificate. More than 22,000 food stalls and 20,000 restaurants, have received the certificate,” Sudarat said. (TNA)

Internet cafes applaud government initiative

Internet cafe owners are welcoming the government’s move to delegate responsibility for controlling the Internet cafe business to the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), expressing confidence that the ministry will provide the sector with a clear direction while facilitating its growth.

Chalermsak Lertlopthatree, president of the Thai Internet Cafe Owners Association, applauded the decision to hand control of the sector from the Interior Ministry to the ICT Ministry, saying that the ICT Ministry’s understanding of the sector would undoubtedly lead to the growth of the these businesses in Thailand. Voicing optimism that the ministry will be able to draw up clear guidelines for the sector, he said that the ministry could ensure that the business was channeled in a positive direction.

In the past the Internet cafe business was controlled by the Tape and Television Materials Act, supervised by the Interior Ministry with assistance from the police. The result was patchy enforcement of legislation, with no practical single standard for supervision.

Internet cafe owners hope to discuss plans to determine opening hours for Internet cafes with the ICT Ministry. Some Internet cafes are currently operating on a 24-hour basis. However, the majority of cafes are complying with government directives to ban children under the age of 18 from using their services after 10:00 p.m. as required under the 2004 Child Protection Act. (TNA)

GSB to issue new bonds

The Government Savings Bank (GSB) will introduce new bond projects, worth around 10 billion baht early next year. GSB’s director-general Goanpot Asvinvichit said that GSB is considering issuing the new bonds in three or four separate projects.

“We’re considering issuing the new bond schemes of 3, 5, 7 and 10 years to mobilize public funds to support government development projects for the grass-root level of people. The new bond projects will be worth around 10 billion baht and will be issued early next year”, Goanpot said. “The new bond schemes will also provide an alternative way of savings for the general public at a time when domestic and global interest rates are on the rising trend”, he noted.

Details of the GSB’s bond schemes are being finalized and will soon be announced to the general public. GSB has supported the government’s key development projects for the grass-root sector so far, including the People’s Bank and the Village Fund Schemes. (TNA)

Thai food wins favor in France

The Ministry of Commerce hopes to capitalize on the success of Thai products at a recent Paris food fair to boost marketing channels for Thai cuisine in France.

Ninety-five Thai companies exhibited at the SIAL (Sial International d’Alimentation) 2004 event held from October 17-21, joining their counterparts from other countries for the biggest gathering of food industry professionals in the world.

Thailand’s Department of Export Promotion, which has exhibited at the fair for the past 14 years, led exporters of a wide range of food products to the Paris show. Goods this year included Hom Mali rice, processed food, cooked food and Thai ingredients. Thai product booths attracted a huge amount of interest, with orders flowing in from around the world.

Products which proved particularly popular were rice, spices, canned fruits and canned tuna. Surprisingly, given that the fair was held in one of the world’s most important wine-producing nations, Thai wine also attracted interest from visitors. French chefs also flocked to watch Thai cooking demonstrations, which attracted around 1,500 visitors each day.

The Ministry of Commerce capitalized on the success of SIAL 2004 by teaming up with one of Paris’ top department stores, Galeries Lafayette, to promote Thai products until November 8. The store showcased Thai food products and goods produced under the One Tambon One Product (OTOP) scheme.

Trade representatives were also able to talk to some of France’s largest food importers, responsible for getting goods onto supermarket shelves. The eventual aim will be to ensure that Thai products are not only sold in specialist Asian shops, but are also represented in mainstream stores such as Carrefour and Auchon. Further promotions are planned for both stores next April. (TNA)

Bid to slash gasohol price

The Ministry of Energy is searching for ways of bringing down the price of gasohol, with the aim of ensuring that gasohol rather than octane 95 petrol becomes the fuel of choice among Bangkok vehicle users by the end of next year.

Minister of Energy Prommin Lertsuridej expressed confidence that the government’s campaign to encourage gasohol use would pay off, with the introduction of a number of measures designed to boost public confidence in the new fuel. At the beginning of November, the Automobile Industry Association and car manufacturers will band together to offer guarantees to motorists that gasohol is safe to use.

The energy and industry ministries, meanwhile, will work together to raise the domestic production of ethanol, a key component in gasohol.

The Ministry of Energy said it will begin raising the price of diesel next year, with a series of staggered price rises to ensure that consumers were not faced with sudden price hikes. (TNA)

Former PM says government must speed up search for energy sources

Former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun has called on the government to accelerate finding additional fuel reserve sources, saying the global energy situation is of concern now. He said global oil prices have increased to more than US$50 per barrel.

“This is a worrying level which could lead to the slowdown in the global economy,” Anand cautioned, “so it is a duty of each country to come up with an approach to deal with the situation.”

For Thailand, he said, the government should attempt to assess the global fuel prices properly so that it can adjust measures to deal with local oil prices. He said he hoped the government’s measure to cap fuel prices should not last too long because it could have repercussions in the long run.

Anand, who is a chief advisor of the National Economic and Social Development Council, said the violence in Iraq and Nigeria, which are the world’s major fuel production sources, remain of concern. “Possible terrorist attacks and sabotages on oil pipelines would worsen the oil price crisis,” he warned.

He said Thailand’s fuel production capacity had not increased, while the demand was rising, which means the government must accelerate its search for more fuel reserve sources in preparation for future problems. (TNA)

Manual Labor and Public Utility Committees meet to discuss improvements

10,000 baht reward offered for capture of drainage cover thieves

Ariyawat Nuamsawat

At a recent meeting of the Manual Labor and Public Utility Committees in Pattaya City, a 10,000 baht reward was offered for information leading to the capture and arrest of drainage cover thieves.

Other meeting topics included improving public utilities in Pattaya City, flood control and the deteriorating road that leads to the wastewater treatment plant behind Nongyai Temple.

City administrators made a routine inspection of the Soi Bua Khao area, which has been plagued with flooding.

Held on October 21 at city hall, Bunlue Kulawanit, Pattaya council member, and a representative of the Department of Labor and Public Utilities Committee in Pattaya City, led the meeting to discuss improvements on a number of issues regarding public works around the district.

Bunlue said, “Pattaya City constructed a road to the wastewater treatment plant behind Nongyai Temple, which has since deteriorated, resulting in many complaints from the public. A resolution has been made to request a budget to repair the road. We have also had a barrage of grievances that drainage covers are being stolen and being sold for cash. The city is offering a 10,000 baht reward for information leading to the arrest of these thieves and the people who buy from them.”

Committee members also went out for a routine inspection of Soi Bua Khao in Central Pattaya. The area has been plagued with flooding.

Wirat Jirasripaibun, Public Works Department engineering director, said the problem arose because water can’t be drained off in time. He said that Pattaya City has added water pumps and is also expanding the drainage pipe. “This problem will be solved when the drainage construction is completed,” said Wirat.

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