Thailand is currently dealing with both domestic and international development issues in addition to being affected by the global warming crisis. The Russia-Ukraine conflict is an external factor. The economic impacts of Covid-19 is also included, Nation Group (Thailand) Plc chief executive officer Shine Bunnag said in his opening remarks.
“Another important issue is, we have entered an ageing society and the generational divide. According to a recent study on the country's inequality problem, 10 per cent of Thai people own almost 80 per cent of the country's total assets,” he said.
Two prominent keynote speakers expressed their views on the future of the environment with reference to electric vehicles and the digital economy.
“Thailand has the potential to become one of the world's biggest battery producers in the development of electricity vehicle production,” said Sompote Ahunai, CEO, Energy Absolute Plc (EA).
But the country is now facing threats from both international factors -- pandemic, inflation, supply chain disruption -- and domestic, such as high household debt, middle-income trap, ageing society, wealth gap etc. Therefore, the nation needs to find a clear solution and direction to take action. Thailand's industries need to become high-end sources of technology and a skilful workforce, Sompote said.
"At present, Thailand is at a major crossroads. If we do nothing and stand still, we are certain to be lost and get left out of the global economy. However, every crisis has its own opportunity and that opportunity for Thailand is the strong fundamental infrastructure. If we start from what we are good at, I'm sure we can change and sustain our growth," he added.
As an expert in Thailand's EV industry, Sompote pointed out that Thailand, once dubbed as the "Detroit of Asia", should take strong action now, otherwise the country would lose its competitiveness.
“We can't let one of our country's major sources of income collapse, because the automotive industry earns 11 per cent of the nation's GDP and employs more than 900,000 people. The cost of this collapse will not only impact Thailand's economy but also damage people's lives," said Sompote.
He suggested that Thailand start with the construction of EV charging stations nationwide to boost the demand for EV cars in the country.
“Once the volume of EV cars increases, the demand for batteries will go up as well. Thailand may fall behind other countries in creating and developing locally made EV cars, but not battery. When the supply keeps increasing to catch up with demand or exceeds the demand, battery prices in the country would become cheaper so that we can export to serve the global demand. EV is the global trend, therefore Thailand should be able to become among the world's top five battery producers," he said.
Jirayut Srupsrisopa, founder and group CEO of Bitkub Capital Group Holdings, said that the world economy would tend to shift in the future from high-speed growth to “quality growth”.
Quality growth involves shaping the future of integrated energy and advocating the need to move quickly and establish a stable framework for renewable energy, he said.
Jirayut said the energy transition would be accelerated because "policies that slow down the transition to clean energy will have extremely high consequences". Thais should concentrate on economic electrification, innovation, and increased consumer connectivity.
“A buyer may consider whether to buy from India or Thailand. If any country could make sure that their products are truly environmentally friendly, the buyer will choose that country because they can provide quality products,” he said.
In the second session of the conference, six representatives from six political parties were each given five minutes to speak.
Parit Wacharasindhu, manager of policy campaign at Move Forward Party:
There are three aspects to take care of or three pieces of cake to make that can move Thailand out of the crisis. The first piece of cake is to groom the economy by reforming the education system, improving infrastructure and changing the structure of the bureaucracy. The second piece of cake is to reduce inequality by distributing wealth and improving local administration. And the last piece of the cake is to restore democracy with a transparent and accountable government.
Squadron Leader Sita Divari, chairman of the development committee of Thai Sang Thai Party:
Thailand is currently in the most fragile state with high inflation, high household debt, high inequality, and also underdeveloped technology. The key to reviving the country and making economic progress is to stop the big tycoons from corrupting, and supporting SMEs and startups to grow and go abroad.
Poramez Kumarnboon, adviser to the chairman of the committee on policy and strategy, Chart Thai Pattana Party:
One of the keys to overcoming this complex crisis is to find a solution that is concerned with the environment and sustainability. Meanwhile, Thailand should prioritise improving agricultural technology so that the nation can create value-added products while sustaining the country's food security. Moreover, the government should come out with policies that are related to the circular economy, carbon neutral, upcycling industry and green tourism.
Paopoom Rojanasakul, deputy secretary-general of Pheu Thai Party:
The Pheu Thai Party focuses on three angles of the triangle -- labour, education, and the private sector. Using digital assets is good to raise funds.
Pongprom Yamarat, deputy spokesman of Sang Anakot Thai (Building Thailand's Future) Party:
Thailand 4.0 is a vital function for the people of Thailand. We must concentrate on human resources. The importance of humans cannot be overstated. There should be a platform where you can showcase the people’s abilities. The importance of boosting creativity for technology, which includes the internet, cannot be overstated. People, opportunities, and nations are all built by people.
Issara Sereewatthanawut, chairman of the Democrat Party’s committee on modern economy:
Inflation is forcing prices to rise as a result of Covid. What's going on is an economic recession. We must reduce wasteful spending and focus on what matters most. We must support Thai people to get out of debt.
The third part of the event took up random questions from the public and a representative (randomly selected) was given two minutes to answer.
▪︎What should be a good policy to support LGBTIQ+?
Sita Divari: At present, LGBTIQ+ people have opened up more to society. But they have not received welfare and equality like other people. They pay taxes like other citizens, but welfare is not equal for them. For example, they cannot avail of health schemes. So, the first thing to do is to provide protection to same-sex marriage. They are supposed to get the same rights as others.
▪︎ How to help new graduates who are facing unemployment?
Poramez Kumarnboon: We should groom great and able people for the future demand. Set aside a certain budget to subsidise education for the future career.
▪︎How to handle the digital economy?
Paopoom Rojanasakul: Let the market define which way to go by opening the market to call for investments. Look at digital assets as a bigger picture.
▪︎How to push our “soft power”?
Pongprom Yamarat: We need a specific agency to develop our soft power. We don't need a new ministry, but instead create a new zone with tax privileges to support the growth of soft power. We can bring our local talents to mix with K Pop. We can provide the stage and do business matching.
▪︎How to tackle inflation?
Issara Sereewatthanawut: To immediately tame the high inflation and high cost of living, Thailand needs to increase the minimum wage with a dynamic system that will grow along with the growth of the business. Meanwhile, to solve inflation in the long term, the country must educate people with the needed skills for the job market.
▪︎How to bring equality to society?
Parit Wacharasindhu: There are two solutions to Thailand's inequality. The first is to allocate the nation's budget for making a fair welfare state. The second is to distribute prosperity, budget, power, and mission to the local government so that they can manage the development that suits them the most.
Published : June 01, 2022
By : THE NATION