Thai 4G funds to be spent on infrastructure

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Thailand prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.
Thailand prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Thailand's prime minister said yesterday that $2.26 billion raised from a 4G mobile licence auction would be used to fund infrastructure projects and to help low-income people, including farmers.

Thailand's leading mobile operators Advance Info Service and True Corp won the auction for fourth-generation mobile frequency licences on 12 November, which was held by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission.

"There are many projects we are considering doing with the money raised including investment in railways and helping those with low incomes including farmers," prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters.

"This money will come to the government, to the central budget, to be made useful. This government has many projects, including basic aid for the poor and for farmers."

The economy has been in the doldrums since a 2014 military coup, and Prayuth's military government has sought to accelerate spending on railways and roads to boost border trade.

It has also sought to appease disgruntled and politically powerful farmers who are struggling with record-low commodity prices and weak exports by rolling out $1.3 billion in rural subsidies.

Farmers have been feeling the pain from the country's worst drought in decades, which has struck the heart of the farming sector, the backbone of the rural economy.

Rahul Bajoria, regional economist at Barclays Capital, said the government needs to step up support for the agricultural sector to boost consumption.

"The rural economy has been dented by the weather, while Bangkok continues to perform well given the large number of tourists," Rahul told Reuters, adding the severe drought has hurt rural incomes, which is driving week consumption.

Tourism, which accounts for 10% of GDP, has been among the few lone bright spots, and the government has said it expects a record 30.3 million visitors to Thailand this year.

Thailand's telecom regulator will hold another auction on 15 December.

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