Investment applications in Thailand reached a total of 902 billion baht in 2018, 43% higher than the previous year and beating a target of 720 billion baht, the Board of Investment said on Wednesday.

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Thai and foreign firms submitted a total of 1,626 projects in Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, the agency said in a statement.

Of those, 680 billion baht of planned investment was for the Eastern Economic Corridor, a centrepiece of the junta’s policy to boost growth and hi-tech industries such as robotics, electric vehicles and aviation.

The agency said 84% of applications were in the government’s target industries, including digital healthcare, petrochemical and robotics, with a total value of 758 billion baht.

In October-December, “there were many big projects in the petrochemical industry… and automotive groups that applied for (investment) promotion,” Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak told reporters.

The BoI targets 750 billion baht of investment pledges in 2019, only slightly higher than last year’s target due to uncertain global economic conditions, Mr Somkid said.

In 2018, Thailand approved separate projects by Nissan Motor Co and Honda Motor Co, adding up to US$888 million (28 billion baht), to produce hybrid electric cars and batteries.

Higher expectations for investments is partly driven by companies shifting production and supply chains out of China to Southeast Asia, with countries such as Thailand and Vietnam being popular destinations.

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