Economic Impacts of the Kra Canal: An Application of the Automatic Calculation of Sea Distances by a GIS

Discussion Papers


by Ching-mu CHEN and Satoru KUMAGAI

March 2016


A plan to construct a canal through the Kra Isthmus in Southern Thailand has been proposed many times since the 17th century. The proposed canal would become an alternative route to the over-crowded Straits of Malacca. In this paper, we attempt to utilize a Geographical Information System (GIS) to calculate the realistic distances between ports that would be affected by the Kra Canal and to estimate the economic impact of the canal using a simulation model based on spatial economics. We find that China, India, Japan, and Europe gain the most from the construction of the canal, besides Thailand. On the other hand, the routes through the Straits of Malacca are largely beneficial to Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia, besides Singapore. Thus, it is beneficial for all ASEAN member countries that the Kra Canal and the Straits of Malacca coexist and complement one another.

Keywords: Kra Canal, Malacca Straits, GIS, simulation model
JEL classification: R40, R13

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