THAI PROGRAM WINS BROAD INVESTOR BACKING

THAI PROGRAM WINS BROAD INVESTOR BACKING

Analysts and the markets welcomed a declaration by the new government Thursday that its focus will remain on infrastructure, especially highways, railroads, airport improvement and a new southern deep-sea port.

Financial liberalization, fiscal reform and decentralization will also proceed, Prime Minister Banharn Silpa-archa told Parliament.His first formal statement also sets down moves to improve and increase communications facilities and equipment by supporting the private sector's participation in telecommunications development.

The hour-long address Wednesday was intended to reassure foreign and local investors jittery at the prospect of some change by the new, seven-party coalition in the liberalization programs instituted by the previous administration.

Officials will "continue to promote financial liberalization" at a faster rate than set down in the Financial System Master Plan introduced last February, he said.

"The construction of a deep-sea port under the Southern Seaboard Development Program will be accelerated in order to support economic development in the Southern provinces," Mr. Banharn said.

The government will undertake studies on alternative sources of energy and increase cooperation with neighboring countries on energy programs. The private sector is also to be urged to take a larger role in the energy sector.

"The oil pipeline network will be further developed to lower transportation costs and introduce uniform pricing nationwide," he said.

Dan Fineman, senior analyst with Jardine Fleming Thanakom Securities Ltd., described the policy program as "quite encouraging" for the share market. But he added a warning that people "are concerned over the increases in expenditure at a time when inflation is picking up."

The lawyer named to the post of finance minister, Suriakiat Sathirathai, took note of that concern. He said the government will be constrained in its program by inflationary fears.

Inflation, running at over 5 percent a year, is above the 4.8 percent forecast for 1995. Analysts are expected to watch the central bank closely for changes in interest rate and money supply policy if overheating begins to occur.

Mr. Banharn's platform includes tax reductions for lower income families, pressing ahead with privatization of state enterprises, development of mutual

funds, and fiscal decentralization to provide provincial authorities greater autonomy.

"To increase competitiveness, the new government will focus on free-trade policies and implement clear-cut remedial measures to assist the sectors most affected by economic liberalization.

"Greater support will be provided to the services central to the efficiency of trade and investment, especially transport, shipping and insurance," Mr Banharn said.

A business analyst with Capital Nomura Securities Ltd., James Marshall, echoed the overall assessment in believing there will be little change in policy from the previous government.

"All the differences in policy appear to be minor; we're not expecting major changes," Mr. Marshall said. "There appears to be little potential conflict on the political front. I think things will quiet down now."