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Jobs a key plank in Thai recovery: World Bank

CREATING more jobs while upgrading the country’s skills base against the backdrop of improved regional connectivity is one of the ways that Thailand can restart its economic engine, the World Bank says in a report.

The institution also says the country should promote more competition through free-trade agreements and enable industries to upgrade and innovate. The recommendations come as part of a raft of measures advocated in the report.
“Thailand is a country of vast potential,” said Ulrich Zachau, the World Bank’s country director for Southeast Asia. 
“The report identifies policies that will create more opportunities for more Thais to earn and live productive lives, give children from poor families a chance to grow into a life of prosperity and develop a smart social protection system to support vulnerable people when they get old, fall sick or lose their jobs.”
The report, “Getting Back on Track: Reviving growth and securing prosperity for all,” is described as the first systematic country diagnostic for Thailand – an assessment of the most pressing challenges and opportunities in ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity.
It highlights priorities in four areas.
The first concerns job creation and the improved regional links from infrastructure upgrades and the free trade and industry innovation strategies.
The second area envisions more support for the bottom 40 per cent of the nation’s population by improving the overall education and skills of the workforce, raising agricultural productivity and building stronger social protection systems.
Making growth greener and more resilient by managing natural resources and environment fits in the third area, along with reducing vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change, and promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy.
The fourth area concerns strengthening the institutional capability of the public sector to implement priority reforms.
Over the past few decades, Thailand has made tremendous development progress. Still, an estimated seven million Thais were poor and 6.7 million more were at risk of falling into poverty in 2014, the World Bank says. Inequality also remains a major challenge.
From 1960-96, Thailand maintained a growth rate of 7.5 per cent. But growth slowed to an average of 3.3 per cent from 2005-15. 
People’s lives continue improving but slowly – more slowly than in neighbouring countries or Asean as a whole.
A major reason for the recent slowdown in growth is its loss in global competitiveness over other Asean countries. 
Based on competitiveness scores from 2006-07 to 2016-17, compiled by the World Economic Forum, Asean countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam have edged out Thailand in many areas: innovation, infrastructure, business environment, higher education and training. 
“The analyses and literature used in this study were complemented by an extensive nationwide engagement with government and various stakeholder groups in the country, including development partners, private sector, academia and civil society,” said Lars Sondergaard, World Bank programme leader for human development and poverty and lead author of the report. 
“We hope this study will help the government and other partners engage in building the future of Thailand.”

Published : March 13, 2017