Corruption and Thailand's competitiveness in the Asean Economic Community (AEC) are bigger concerns for foreign investors than the current political situation, says the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand (JFCCT).
Kang: Thailand can be a leader
Stanley Kang, the first Asian chairman of the JFCCT, threw his full support behind the anti-corruption movements of businesses led by the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT).
''Our stance is clear that we are against corruption,'' said Mr Kang, who took the helm last month. ''The JFCCT supports an anti-corruption platform that creates more transparency, reduces costs and improves government efficiency.''
Corruption increases the cost of doing business in the country. Excess customs procedures, for example, hinder regional and international trade, he told the Bangkok Post.
The political situation, which has been stirred up by protests against the blanket amnesty bill, causes some safety concerns.
''When business look to invest in a country, they come with a mid- to long-term strategy and usually study the overall pattern in the past,'' said Mr Kang, also senior manager of Taiwan-based Tuntex Textile (Thailand).
Protests are part of the democratic process to voice concerns as long as they do not affect others, because at the end of the day, the people elect the government, he said.
''The protesters and government have experience from the past. I believe that they don't want to cause injury or inconvenience to others,'' said Mr Kang.
Thailand has advantages over other countries due to good infrastructure and several borders with neighbouring countries. Even during an economic crisis, Thailand is able to bounce back quickly because of the developed infrastructure, he said.
While political stability is one of the major concerns, investors are worried more about corruption and issues with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that create uncertainties about government policies.
Some investment in the energy sector cannot proceed due to environmental concerns raised by NGOs. Thailand imports most of its energy, which is a concern for investors.
An HSBC survey recently ranked Thailand as the best country for expats, so it needs to work hard to maintain that position, Mr Kang said.
The AEC will facilitate regional labour mobility as happened in the EU.
The challenge for Thailand is how to create an environment that will attract the right kind of people and businesses to the country so it can become a regional headquarters, he said.
''We want to see progress made towards how people move, customs duties and taxes. We hope Thailand will be the leader in the AEC,'' Mr Kang said.
The JFCCT, meanwhile, has set up an education committee to help with improving both quality and quantity of its vocational training.
With more than 20 years in Thailand, the JFCCT represents 28 foreign chambers. It plans to have 30-plus members early next year after applications for membership from organisations in Indonesia, Austria and Chile.
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