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Phuket needs more than a peanut budget: governor
  Phuket needs more than a peanut budget: governor

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Authorities in Phuket have hailed Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's idea to develop the tourist island as a paradise, but say he must ensure there is adequate budget funding. Phuket governor Niran Kalayanamitr said Phuket is already a popular international tourist destination and has generated a huge income for the nation for years, so it deserved more than a peanut budget for its infrastructure development.

Phuket needed serious and systematic development to maintain its charms and remain a magnet for visitors.

The projects were there that could boost the competitiveness of Phuket as a world-class tourist destination, but there was no money to realise them, the governor said.

During his weekly talk show on Sunday Mr Samak said that he wanted to set up a 15-member board to supervise Phuket's development, comprising five representatives each from the government, regional and local authorities.

The governor said conservation is a key issue because of continuing forest encroachment on the island.

Almost 2,000 rai of forest on Koh Lon and Khao To had been encroached on and the problem was worsening.

Mr Niran thanked Mr Samak for paying attention to Phuket.

But he made the point 'the allocation of a decent budget is more important than a 15-member board'.

He said the key to Phuket's problems was money, but the proposed board could play an important role in scrutinising the development projects.

Paiboon Upatsaring, the newly elected Phuket provincial administration chief, said the government's focus on Phuket should lead to the allocation of a bigger budget and result in concrete development on the island.

He complained that Phuket had received unusually low allocations in the past because the government had based the budget on the island's registered population, which stood at only 300,000 people.

Actually, up to a million people live in Phuket and around six million people visit the island annually, he said.

Maitree Naruekhanpichai, president of the Phuket Tourism Business Association, welcomed the government's proposed development policy.

He said although Phuket was generating almost 100 billion baht for the nation yearly, it was still facing transport, infrastructure, garbage and tourist safety problems.

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