There are opportunities in Thailand available to foreign investors even if taking advantage of these isn’t always easy.
According to Mr Stanley Kang, JFCCT Chairman, the country is moving in the right direction when it comes to eliminating paperwork and improving processes, but greater openness could be beneficial to everyone.
The Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand (JFCCT) is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year. As the umbrella body for various Thai-foreign chambers of commerce and business associations operating in the country, it has focused on promoting investment and trade while protecting rights throughout its history. However, it has seen nothing quite like COVID-19 during that time. As the Kingdom charts a post-pandemic course aimed at stimulating the economy, the government seeks foreign investment to aid recovery efforts. Despite increasing competition from Vietnam and Indonesia in the region, the JFCCT still has confidence in Thailand.
“Thailand is in a good place. It’s not necessarily behind other countries when it comes to attracting foreign investment. It just needs to promote its strengths and work towards improving other areas,” JFCCT Chairman Mr Stanley Kang stated.
Efforts to eliminate paperwork and improve processes have been sped up because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr Kang points to how quickly the Thai government switched from the Certificate of Entry system to Thailand Pass for overseas arrivals as an example of this speed in action.
“Things will be different as the country restarts and recovers. You are already seeing the move towards e-government and digital transformation happening faster. Long-term targets look more obtainable now,” Mr Kang noted. “Ultimately, Thailand needs to be proactive and not reactive in supporting transformation.”
Digital liberalisation and implementation will be vital to supporting both the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) and Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) Economy model which are needed to drive Thailand 4.0.
“There is a clear vision for both the EEC and BCG, but more work needs to be done on removing obstacles so they can actually take shape. How fast and how good they can be implemented will determine whether or not these are ultimately successful,” Mr Kang reported. “You can’t just talk about doing them. You have to get out of your comfort zone and take action.”
Mr Kang believes openness is one of the most needed actions to reach the full potential of the Thailand 4.0 blueprint. A more open country would make it easier for foreign companies to access current opportunities and unlock new ones while elevating society as a whole.
“Quality of life and competitiveness are based on the openness of society. Silicon Valley is a good example of this. Thailand can become the hub of innovation and education in ASEAN if it works towards being more open,” Mr Kang noted. “Foreign businesses are in Thailand to create, not take. Investors want to be in Thailand. Talent from around the world wants to be here as well. Openness will allow the country to make more friends who can work together to build and advance shared interests.”
He adds being more open attracts foreign talent which will help build the domestic talent pool as people learn together.
“There remains a need to reskill and upskill in order for the country to have the necessary talent under the Thailand 4.0 economic model. One way Thailand can elevate education is by having the public and private sectors work together,” Mr Kang proclaimed.
This would also allow that Kingdom to develop the service and tech service sectors, two areas Thailand must focus on in the view of Mr Kang. There is a need to attract more value-added businesses who will be able to advance EEC and BCG goals.
“Investors should note that there are many things coming up in Thailand. There are a lot of opportunities for overseas firms to assist in both the EEC and BCG, especially when it comes to digital transformation,” Mr Kang said. “For businesses interested in this, they need to understand market trends and where they can fit into those.”
Mr Kang would also like to see the Thai government do more to attract leading foreign companies to the country.
“Incentivising clusters helps, but some consideration needs to be given to bringing in the right players to Thailand. Their presence will create improvement while encouraging others to follow. This may require offering more favourable conditions and terms in addition to incentives,” Mr Kang concluded.
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