Private sector to push for business reforms

Economy August 06, 2014 01:00

By Pranee Muenphangwaree,

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Fighting corruption also high on agenda for new Parliament

Private sector representatives in the new Parliament will push for more than 100 draft bills and legal amendments that cover business promotion, trade facilitation, mergers – and countering corruption – to be considered by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) as part of the country’s economic reform agenda.

Tackling the problem of corruption – one of the private sector’s biggest concerns – will be pushed as a part of efforts to facilitate business.
Isara Vongkusolkij, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Trade of Thailand, said NLA members would convene on Friday with a view to selecting a chairman and vice chairman.
Once that has been accomplished, 139 legal drafts will be pushed by the private sector, said Isara, who is a member of the assembly.
Laws on customs and urban planning are among the priorities for legal amendment, and a committee will be proposed to determine and advise on these issues.
While wages may not be raised, labour skills need improvement, he said.
Vallop Vitanakorn, vice chairman of the National Shippers’ Council, said if the problem of insufficient labour was not resolved to cope with state and private investment in the next one to two years, a labour crisis – particularly at the vocational level – could be expected in three years. 
He said he expected there should at least 500,000 workers “in reserve” at the current time.
Itsakul Unahakate, a researcher at the Thailand Development Research Institute, said the draft bill on facilitation for state approval, which was approved last year, was also up for parliamentary review. 
It is among the priority legal drafts that the anti-corruption agency and seven business organisations proposed to the National Council for Peace and Order for accelerated enforcement in order to cut the time and cost of doing business, fight corruption and increase transparency.
To enhance the agency’s efficiency, the legal draft should promote the Office of the Public Sector Development Commission to use standard costs to assess the cost of approval in terms of money, frequency and time, he said. 
Such information should be transparent and publicly disclosed, he said, adding that a royal decree should announce the setting up of a centre for approval within a finite period of time.
“Although solving corruption in state undertakings will be a major tool to control social and economic activities, over-regulation will increase costs to society and affect national competitiveness. Complicated regulations and legal procedures with approval processes have led to delays in business operations and costs that are too high,” Itsakul noted.
Giving officials too much authority to review could lead to corruption, he warned.
Sathit Limpongpan, chairman of the Stock Exchange of Thailand’s (SET) board of governors and also an NLA member, said the bourse would propose that the new government tackle taxes levied on mergers and acquisitions (M&As) in order to strengthen listed companies as a means of paving way for the Asean Economic Community, which comes into effect at the end of next year.
“Listed companies should be strengthened for the AEC. M&As will enlarge and strengthen our companies to be able to compete,” he said. 
The SET also wants to see foreign companies directly listed on the Thai stock market, he added. 
SET president Kesara Manchusree said the exchange had discussed going ahead with tax adjustment to support the capital markets with the Revenue Department and related agencies. 
SET vice president Chanit Chanchainarong said criteria proposed for foreign companies to list on the Thai bourse were currently subject to a public hearing, and expected to be endorsed in September.
The exchange’s goal is for the SET to become a centre for regional fund mobilisation, and it hopes to start facilitating this by examining regulations on holding companies, he said. 
Based on discussions with foreign investors, he said they had gained confidence about Thailand’s situation in recent months, while the SET’s “Thailand Focus” report this month should be important in gauging their latest view on the Kingdom and its prospects.