Here’s what Thailand needs to thrive

opinion March 15, 2019 01:00

By The Nation

The incoming government faces a slate of tasks to embrace new technology, curb corruption and foster income parity



Several political parties vying for House seats in the March 24 general election have touted policies that will streamline the legal framework for ease of doing business as a means to reduce corruption. The logic is that such an effort, if successful, will also boost Thai competitiveness in the marketplace and help redistribute income to reduce economic inequalities and poverty.

Beyond the ease of doing business, the new government also needs to curb monopolistic powers in the business and industrial sectors, especially those enjoyed by a few conglomerates, whose leadership should be barred from influencing public policy.

Among infrastructure mega-projects, the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) programme is sound and promises to revitalise foreign-investor interest in Thailand, but it alone is not enough to promote development in other parts of the country beyond the three eastern EEC provinces and Bangkok.

Boosting Thailand’s international competitiveness is key to the economy’s sustainable growth over the next two decades. Besides the EEC programme, appropriate timing in the auctioning of fifth-generation (5G) telecom service is also crucial to global competitiveness.

The new government should therefore review current policy, which is aimed at maximising state benefits from the auction in the form of highest monetary bids and shift the focus to actual development benefits to be derived from the game-changing adoption of 5G technology.

In the agricultural sector, digital, e-commerce, big data, Internet-of-Things (IoT), sensor and other technologies are essential to boosting productivity, while reducing costs to stay competitive and in touch with the younger generations of consumers and business partners.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) need the same technologies to survive the so-called tech disruption, in which online and offline businesses are being merged seamlessly. The government’s task is to educate, train and re-skill SME entrepreneurs as well as provide financial resources, including loans and grants, to help them adopt the latest successful business models.

In this context, no one should be left behind, so both urban and rural community-based enterprises should be covered by the government’s aid programme.

Besides the legal framework that better facilitates business and industry, the rules and regulations, especially those governing the issuance of official permits, need to be more transparent so there is no need for government officials to exercise individual judgement, which is a major source of corruption in the first place.

The general public also needs easier access to public data as a check-and-balance mechanism on corrupt practices. This can now be done more conveniently thanks to the available digital and mobile technologies. 

Overall, key issues are obvious concerning legal reforms for less corruption and economic equality, as well as for better income redistribution and international economic competitiveness via infrastructure investments and adoption of 5G and other disruptive digital technologies.

The challenges lie in the country’s political stability following the national polls and the formation of a new government that can really implement all these crucial policies as Thailand returns to the path of democratic governance.