Minister nixes proposed SME federation

Minister nixes proposed SME federation

Some operators claim they are sidelined

Plans to set up Thailand's first SME federation representing small and medium-sized enterprises are likely to hit a snag after meeting with opposition from the Industry Ministry.

Industry minister Chakramon Phasukvanich expressed concern that the objectives of the planned SME federation pushed by the Association for the Promotion of Thai Small and Medium Entrepreneurs (ATSME) might duplicate work done by the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) and the Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC).

Furthermore, a number of ATSME members are also members of the FTI and TCC, two prominent business organisations.

The ATSME has gathered the names of 50,000 SME operators nationwide to petition for the creation of their own federation.

Association president Penthip Pornjadet said the country had 2.79 million SMEs, although a mere 390,000 operators are covered by the tax system.

Having their own federation would raise the importance of SMEs and help the government to address their problems.

It could also attract more operators to enter the tax system, which would eventually add to state coffers.

The ATSME said a common complaint among members was that the government gave higher priority to the TCC and FTI while ignoring the grievances of SMEs.

According to the association, SMEs generate 864 billion baht a year.

After discussing the issue with FTI chairman Supant Mongkolsuthree yesterday, Mr Chakramon said his ministry preferred to see unity among the private sector.

He also wants to see a more comprehensive plan for an SME federation as well as its management structure, as such a body would oversee a large number of operators.

Mr Supant said the FTI had been instructed to discuss the issue with the ATSME to solve the conflict soon.

The FTI, which covers industrial operators and manufacturers nationwide, could also take care of small operators, he said.

"Presently the FTI has about 20 associations as members, and these associations represent as many as 80% of SMEs in Thailand," said Mr Supant.

In addition, he argued that since a large number of smaller operators were TCC members, it was not necessary to separate them into two organisations.

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