THAILAND: Rubber City hindered by lack of vision

At present, what the Rubber City project will become is theoretical, as it is in the detail design phase, Ms Kangsadarn said.

Under the original plan, Rubber City will be located in the third phase of the Southern Industrial Estate with total area of 755 rai--566 rai for industrial area and 189 rai for basic utilities.

But interim Industry Minister Prasert Boonchaisuk is pushing for a 2015 completion, Ms Kangsadarn said the project is currently in the detailed design process so the original 2017 completion will likely be the case.

Targeted rubber output includes rubber gloves, condoms, automobile tyres, rubber hoses and furniture from rubber trees.

Nattapon Nattasomboon, director-general of the Industrial Works Department, said the Rubber City project is critical for boosting industry competitiveness.

"Rubber City needs to happen, as Thailand exports more than 90 % of domestic raw rubber annually. If the country does not support mid- and downstream rubber manufacturing, it will continue to be affected by global rubber prices," said Mr Nattapon.

A PTT gas pipeline is proposed for the estate, but its existence depends on the reception of Rubber City by the industry and a return of investment.

"Energy costs for industry in Thailand are disadvantageous compared with Malaysia, but the pipeline could help to reduce operating costs and attract more companies to the industrial estate and Rubber City," said Mr Nattapon.

Once completed, Rubber City will have the potential to create 20,000 tonnes in additional demand of raw rubber per year and generate industrial investment of 4.3 billion baht, Ms Kangsadarn added.

Source: Daily "Bangkok Post", Bangkok; 16 Dec 2013
(Syed Rashid Ali, Karachi, Pakistan)