THE CHAIRMAN of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) has pledged to push for an industrial transformation by supporting companies to upgrade their business operations and train more workers as the Bank of Thailand announced a further increase in private investment in April.
“Mid-size and large corporations have started to incorporate new technology and automation as they begin to transform their businesses,” said Supant Mongkolsuthree, chairman of the FTI, in an interview with The Nation recently.
However, small companies have yet to embrace automation, said Supant, who recently was elected chairman of the industry body for a second term.
Thai industries have been facing shortage of skilled labours. The FTI will collaborate with universities and vocational schools in training to produce more engineers and technicians, he said.
Supant was optimistic that private investment would significantly pick up this year after a long period of low investment. Growing exports and rising public spending on infrastructure projects are expected to boost private investment.
He expected that investment in electronics sector and other sectors related to exports would increase this year.
The legislation for the Eastern Economic Corridor which came into force recently, has boosted investor confidence in the Thai economy, he said.
He expected foreign investors would invest more in the region as the government will invest in high-speed railway linking the three international airports: Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok and U-Tapao in Rayong province, east of Bangkok.
However, he expressed concerns over the rising prices of land in the EEC area.
“We want to propose to the government that it allocates land for SMEs as they could not afford the high prices,” said Supant. If small and medium-sized enterprises could not participate in the investment in the EEC, most of the benfits would go to the large foreign corporations, he said.
SMEs could play a larger role as they could be part of the supply chain of production in the region, he argued.
Supant expressed his support of the government’s plan to merge the Ministry of Science and Technology with the Office of Higher Education Commission. The merger would lead to educational institution producing capable graduates to meet market demand, he said.
Exports keep growing
In a related development, the Bank of Thailand yesterday reported that the local economy continued to improve in April from the first quarter, driven by exports, household consumption, private investment and public spending.
Private investment indicators suggested an acceleration of investment in April compared with the same month last year, said the central bank.
Investment in machinery and equipment increased as there were more imports of equipment for telecommunication, energy and computers.
The government budget disbursement for the development of provincial clutters increased while funds for the repairs of aeroplane and military equipment purchases also rose.
Consumer spending increased during the month, driven by the increasing purchasing power of workers in the non-farm sector. However, an income contraction among farmers dragged down purchasing power of the group, said the central bank.