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Roadmap for EV industry expected this month

The Board of Investment (BoI) will discuss plans for the development of electric vehicles (EV) at the meeting led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on March 24.

EV is one of 10 strategic industries Thailand is focusing on as it tries to move towards a high-technology and innovation-based economy.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said the meeting will discuss details of five- and 10-year plans for the EV industry.

"We will finalise a plan that will serve as a guideline for related industries, offering a timeline for our EV development plans," Mr Somkid said.

The BoI's incentives package provides investors with perks such as a 15-year corporate income tax holiday. If investors spend on research and development (R&D), they can ask for financial support from the government.

The government set up a 10-billion-baht competitiveness fund to serve investor demand in the R&D incentives.

Mr Somkid said the government has failed to attract investment in the EV sector because of lack of demand. However, Mr Somkid said the trend is clearer that EVs will be fruitful within the next five years because of the fluctuation of fuel prices and the public's concern with the environment.

"If car manufacturers do not act now regarding EVs, they will be left behind. Development of the segment takes time, and the faster the better," he said.

Mr Somkid said the German carmaker BMW has expressed interest in building an EV battery facility in Thailand.

He said Thailand's reduction to 17% personal income tax for researchers sets a standard for the region that Singapore and Vietnam are expected to mimic soon.

Thailand needs to work harder in developing fields such as aviation under its 10 targeted sectors, said Mr Somkid.

Companies can enjoy the highest privileges if they build a factory in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), whose development the government wants to fast-track.

The government is accelerating the Science and Technology Ministry's development of the EEC of Innovation (EECI) project to support expected industry demand in the corridor. He said the ministry needs to connect with foreign research institutes to support Thailand's R&D development. International schools should be allowed to open in the EEC to improve education quality, said Mr Somkid.

The EECI is expected to be located at Wangchan Valley on land owned by PTT Plc at a cost of 10 billion baht, opening in five years. The investment will be implemented as a public-private partnership.

Mr Somkid instructed the ministry to outline R&D spending over the next three years. The ministry reported expenditure on R&D in 2015 was 85 billion baht, or 0.62% of GDP. The private sector accounted for 70% or 60 billion baht.

The expenditure on R&D was expected to rise to 0.75% of GDP in 2016 and 1% in 2018. A proposed Futureum (innovation museum) at Science Park in Pathum Thani is expected to cost 2.1 billion baht, helping the government reach its goal.

Science and Technology Minister Atchaka Sibunruang said the ministry will consult the Finance Ministry to allow companies to increase their deductions on innovation to two times when filing corporate tax payments.

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