Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has called for a meeting of his Council of Economic Ministers in two weeks after Thailand slipped backwards from 46th to 49th in the World Bank's ranking of 189 economies in the ease of doing business, Somchai Sujjapongse
On the agenda will be complicated taxes and overlapping payments, high export costs, slow granting of factory licences and building permits and the lengthy process of obtaining environmental impact assessment approval.
"There are things that we have already done, which are not included in the [World Bank’s] 2016 report, such as shortening the time to obtain manufacturing licences to less than 30 days" from 90 days, Somchai said.
He had delivered the opening speech at the "OECD-Asian Round- table on Corporate Governance" arranged by the Stock Exchange of Thailand, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Thai Institute of Directors and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
"The prime minister had asked for the meeting with all relevant government agencies and ministers even before the World Bank’s ‘ease of doing business’ report was announced.
"The meeting is going to be on November 9 to remind the agencies that the government is giving importance to this issue and to make sure that our ranking will rise the next time around," he said.
He also reaffirmed the comment by Somkid Jatusripitak, the deputy prime minister in charge of economic affairs, that the government will need to talk to Thai law firms regarding government agencies’ progress in improving the ease of doing business, since they are the ones filling in the World Bank’s annual questionnaire, not businesses.
"We are confident that our rank will increase next time from the ongoing efforts of various government agencies," Somchai said.
"We know our weaknesses, and we have to clarify some misinformation that the law firms have."
For example, the number of forms required for export approval is only two to five pages, which is not that many, he said.
"I don’t know where they’re getting their information from regarding plenty of paperwork," he said. The cost of exporting begins at Bt200 via customs, which is "not that expensive".
"We cannot ask the private export [shipping] companies to lower their [fees]. That’s not how it’s done and there isn’t much we can do from here," Somchai said. "Foreign investors should not be affected by the fall in ranking because we are able to explain why it has dropped.
"What we’re starting to do is to go in the right direction, which shows that the government has given importance to the issue before the next questionnaire is handed out on January 1.
"We expect things to improve before then."