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Politics delays Thai infrastructure projects

BANGKOK, April 18 (Reuters) - Thailand has put off accepting bids for $45 billion of infrastructure projects indefinitely due to political uncertainty after inconclusive elections this month, Transport Minister Pongsak Raktapongpisal said on Tuesday.

Bids by domestic and foreign companies due by the end of May would now have to wait until a new government was formed.

"The schedule for accepting bids is being delayed indefinitely. A new cabinet should be given the job of reviewing them," Pongsak told reporters.

The road, rail and other infrastructure projects were a key part of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's Thai Rak Thai party platform that had helped it win a January 2005 general election in a landslide.

Thaksin said he would not accept another term after his party won fewer than expected votes in an April 2 snap election he called in an attempt to end a campaign to oust him by foes accusing him of corruption and abuse of power.

The election was boycotted by major opposition parties, provoking a constitutional crisis as it left seats unfilled and only a full parliament can elect a new prime minister to form a new government.

Pongsak said a cabinet meeting on Tuesday also decided to make ports, highways and airports the main priorities, not the urban mass transit projects which were at the forefront earlier.

The original plan was to be 52 percent financed by government and state enterprise budgets, 24 percent by domestic loans and 18 percent by foreign credits.

The spending list also included 26 new aircraft for national carrier Thai Airways International at a cost of 120 billion baht.

Under Thaksin's plan, nearly 30 percent of the infrastructure programme involved new or extended mass transit systems for Bangkok and its satellite towns. ($1 = 37.95 baht)
 
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