Arkhom calls for post-Covid reforms

Arkhom calls for post-Covid reforms

Three issues must be tackled, says minister

Locals walk on a near-empty Khao San Road. The Fiscal Policy Office initially forecasted economic growth at 1.3% this year. Pornprom Satrabhaya
Locals walk on a near-empty Khao San Road. The Fiscal Policy Office initially forecasted economic growth at 1.3% this year. Pornprom Satrabhaya

Thailand will have to improve in three areas in order to handle key problems in the future, said Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith.

Speaking on Monday at the Fiscal Policy Office's (FPO) seminar on the topic of "From Pandemic to Endemic", Mr Arkhom said that the country's revenue collection system needed to be overhauled in order to ensure the country's sustainable revenue stream. The revenue covers that contributed from tax, state agencies' revenue, and concession revenue.

In addition, he said the business sector has to embrace digital technology to enhance its operations.

Thailand should also invest more in public health infrastructure to cater for the rising number of ageing people, as over-60s are expected to rise to 24% of the total population in next 10 years, he added.

Mr Arkhom added that the Covid-19 pandemic has severely hit the Thai economy, especially the tourism sector. The country's revenue from foreign tourists accounts for 12% of Thailand's gross domestic product.

Pornchai Thiraveja, the FPO's director-general, said that the country's reopening on Nov 1 is expected to positively impact economic activities. The FPO will update its economic forecast on Oct 28. Earlier it had forecast economic growth for this year of 1.3%.

Former FPO director-general Somchai Sujjapongse said at the same event that Thailand's economy is facing challenges, including how to bring back the unemployed to their jobs and how to upgrade their skills. He suggested the government should allow local people to determine by themselves what jobs should be created, instead of promoting jobs on a top-down basis.

Another challenge is how to help ailing small and medium-sized enterprises back to business. Although the Bank of Thailand has offered financial assistance, including soft loans, to help them fight the impact of the pandemic, many of them have failed to qualify for the credit.

Mr Somchai also addressed the issue of how to curb rising household debts. He said that banks' offers of debt restructuring or lower interest rates might not be enough, so government should create second jobs for the indebted as a means of curbing their household debt.

He also questioned if the Thai economy relied too much on foreign markets, and stressed the need to create balance between its dependence on external and domestic demand.

Nitinai Sirismatthakarn, president of Airports of Thailand, said that the local aviation sector is expected to take at least two years to recover from the pandemic.

He said it remains to be seen if all Thai airlines would be able to resume operations as usual after the country's reopening on Nov 1. Some might have been partially paralysed or their ownership might have changed during the pandemic, he added.

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