Planning unit emerges from the shadows
The head of the Trade Policy and Strategy Office wants to use data analysis to inform economic decisions
published : 27 May 2023 at 04:26
newspaper section: Business
writer: Phusadee Arunmas
The Commerce Ministry established the Trade Policy and Strategy Office (TPSO) in 2015 primarily to support the development of the economy through trade and economic data.
The planning unit is expected to enhance exporters' capabilities to adapt to the new era of global trade, achieving sustainable growth in the face of numerous challenges, such as a global economic slowdown, geopolitical conflicts, high inflation, supply chain disruptions and climate change.
Poonpong Naiyanapakorn, director-general of the TPSO, said with unexpected events such as the pandemic and the bank run in the US, the office is responsible for compiling various trade and economic indicators that serve as tools to gauge the country's economic condition, production capabilities and consumption.
These include the Consumer Price Index, which measures the inflation rate, the Consumer Confidence Index, the Producer Price Index, and other trade indices such as the K-value.
The K-value is used to evaluate the scale of changes in construction costs between the day on which tenders are submitted and the period when a stage of work is completed. The tool then calculates the corresponding additions or reductions in payments to contractors.
The K-value helps lessen the impact of changes in building material costs for contractors' payments.
The compiled data aims to provide early warnings and timely, accurate information about economic trends in Thailand.
He said this information is used to formulate relevant policies.
According to Mr Poonpong, a key area that requires further development is the analysis of primary data to obtain more precise and faster information to cope with challenges both domestically and internationally. This requires improvements in information technology and data storage methods, he said.
"We analyse data and serve as the central database for trade and economic information, providing it to both central and provincial government agencies under the Commerce Ministry, as well as to external organisations, including the private sector," said Mr Poonpong.
"But with limited personnel of only 130 civil servants and 20 government officials, the office recognises the importance of collaborative efforts with the private sector to achieve its objectives. The agency emphasises data analysis that caters to the needs of the private sector, benefiting trade associations and partnerships while enhancing their competitive capabilities. Sector-specific studies have been conducted to improve trade within those sectors."
He said the office desperately needs knowledgeable and skilled personnel who can adapt to changes, possess competence and ethics, and can collaborate effectively with various departments under the ministry.
The goal is to upgrade TPSO to become a leading agency in Thailand's economic and trade sector as global trade evolves, said Mr Poonpong.
Given the limited number of personnel, prioritisation and clear goals are crucial for effective work.
This year the office wants to emphasise producing work that benefits the entire community, providing policy recommendations and allowing the private sector to utilise its work, disseminating and analysing information via Facebook and the TPSO website, he said.
Looking ahead, Mr Poonpong outlined TPSO's plans for more integrated collaboration with the private sector, as well as increased cooperation with provincial commercial offices and foreign trade centres.
"The long-term vision for TPSO is to become a renowned think tank consisting of knowledgeable and ethical individuals. The office should be the first organisation that comes to mind when considering the economic and trade dimensions of all government and private entities," he said.
"Another goal is attracting and encouraging talented individuals to work for TPSO."
A critical task for 2023 is to drive the national trade strategy, providing a clearer direction for trade development, said Mr Poonpong.
The strategy is being revised for review by the new commerce minister after a new government assumes power, and is expected to be presented at the next cabinet meeting, he said.
The National Trade Action Plan spanning 2024-27 has an objective of identifying significant trends and addressing various issues in Thailand, both on a broad scale and in specific sectors such as agriculture, industrial goods and services.
The plan also aims to evaluate Thailand's competitiveness and analyse the impact of changing trends on trade, including global economic volatility, trade regulations and agreements, population structure, technological advancements (such as big data, artificial intelligence, and the platform and creative economies), climate change, social responsibility, emerging diseases and other relevant issues that require preparation of goals for a resolution.
"TPSO remains a relatively new organisation, combining personnel from different departments under the Commerce Ministry and other state agencies," said Mr Poonpong.
"As the office chief, it is my responsibility to bring together personnel from various units to work under a unified organisational culture. Our motto is 'TPSO stepping together for sustainable trade and driving Thailand's trade strategy towards a resilient economy'."
He said for the past eight years, TPSO has collected data in all 77 provinces, totalling more than 1.2 million pieces of information per month and at least 15 million per year.
The office has developed and disseminated more than 10 indices and trade economic indicators, including the Trade Intelligence System, which serves as a hub for trade-related information in the country. This system is used to monitor and analyse trade situations and formulate trade policies in Thailand.
TPSO also developed a website to provide in-depth trade information to entrepreneurs and the public.
The integration of new technologies can add value and enhance trade. Blockchain technology is employed for the traceability of agricultural products, from cultivation and production to processing and distribution, including certification data.
This technology ensures transparency and the trustworthiness of Thai agricultural products as they can be conveniently and rapidly accessed through the website TraceThai.com, said Mr Poonpong.
TPSO also promotes trade policies and strategies via collaboration between the government and the private sector to develop the economy and address trade obstacles. The vehicle for this cooperation is the Joint Public and Private Sector Consultative Committee on Commerce, which includes the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Thai Industries and the Thai National Shippers' Council.
The office also serves as the secretary for the International Economic Policy Committee, chaired by the prime minister, which addresses issues related to special trade situations.
- Poonpong Naiyanapakorn