Thailand 'is getting more competitive'
Thailand's world competitiveness ranking should improve to between 20th and 25th next year as the government has made much progress in infrastructure development, bureaucratic transparency and the ease of doing business, says Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak.
Speaking at the Thailand Competitiveness Conference 2016, Mr Somkid said the government hoped the ranking would improve next year and beyond given the exhaustive efforts it had made to fix weaknesses.
Thailand's ranking on the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) world competitiveness index has risen two notches this year to 28th thanks to improvements in key criteria such as political stability and policy flexibility.
Thailand's competitiveness ranking in 2015 dropped to 30th out of 61 countries, down from 29th in 2014 and 27th in 2013.
"Competitiveness development has now been placed on Thailand's national agenda," Mr Somkid said. "The government has implemented myriad policies to stimulate economic growth and tackle what are deemed obstacles for doing businesses. More importantly, the government and private sector have worked very closely to upgrade competitiveness."
He urged the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) and Thailand Management Association to play a more active role in encouraging entrepreneurs to pay more attention to competitiveness.
He also suggested that the IMD, World Economic Forum and the World Bank closely monitor the progress of the government's policies in handling competitiveness and ask for more information from policymakers and government officials.
NESDB secretary-general Porametee Vimolsiri told the conference that the 12th National Economic and Social Development Plan (2017-21) would focus on strengthening Thailand's competitiveness.
"The government has introduced several projects to stimulate investment, such as the Eastern Economic Corridor, special economic zones and promotion of targeted industries. This means we are now in the era to push Thailand forward," he said.
According to the NESDB's 12th plan, the government aims to reduce income inequality. The plan will run in tandem with the 20-year National Strategy, which is a bigger framework for national development.
Mr Porametee said the government needs to narrow the gap between rich and poor as statistics show that the income of the rich is 35 times higher than that of the poor.
"To comply with the National Strategy, Thailand needs to have GDP growth averaging 4% per year from now on. By that time we can say that we have escaped the middle-income trap," he said.
He said Thailand still needs to invest more in research and development in order to create new innovation that will increase competitiveness.
Isara Vongkusolkit, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the business sector would soon come up with a new proposal to raise Thailand's competitiveness.
The proposal covers the revision of import-export regulations and tariffs, the upgrade of food and drug quality and an SME support plan.