KUALA LUMPUR: The cross-border land infrastructure between Malaysia and Thailand needs a major upgrade to facilitate trade and investment flows, says newly-appointed Bumiputera Agenda Steering Unit (Teraju) chairman Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed.

Noting that a number of challenges need to be addressed to facilitate cross-border connectivity under the 12th Malaysia Plan, he said:

“One of the issues is income level. People in the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia, especially Kelantan and southern Thailand, are poor.

“To bridge the income gaps within Malaysia and Thailand, the two governments need to demonstrate their commitment to enhance the socio-economic status of people at the border,” he said at the Asean Roundtable Series: Malaysia-Thailand Towards Connectivity Beyond Borders here.

Mustapa pointed out that while Malaysia has the East Coast Economic Region Development Council and the Northern Corridor Implementation Authority which are tasked to boost the socio-economic growth in the east coast and northern region, Thailand has the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre responsible for the socio-economic development of its southern region.

“Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur have to delegate more authority to the regional bodies,” he stressed.

Mustapa also hoped that the government would seriously consider expanding the existing Rantau Panjang-Buketa bridge and proceed with the proposed Pengkalan Kubor-Tak Bai bridge.

Currently, he said, Malaysia and Thailand are connected via three land entry points – Rantau Panjang-Sungai Golok, Pengkalan Kubor-Tak Bai and Bukit Bunga-Buketa – which require upgrading.

Meanwhile, the Thai ambassador to Malaysia, Narong Sasitorn, said Malaysian businesses could take full advantage of Thailand’s infrastructure and logistics for ready access to the growing markets in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, South China and Bangladesh.

“But before you get access to those markets, we really need to fix the congestion issues along the border as border connectivity is really important.

“Thailand and Malaysia are quite big in Asean in terms of economic size. If both countries get things going, it will have a lot of impact in terms of regional integration,” he said, pointing out that the Thai government is in the midst of upgrading its infrastructure under the Thailand Transport Masterplan. – Feb 18, 2020, Bernama

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