Three-year SME development plan the latest stimulus proposal

Three-year SME development plan the latest stimulus proposal

Authorities will next week submit for cabinet consideration a three-year development plan for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The Commerce Ministry plan, which would start next year, is aimed at creating 58,940 new SMEs and adding 419 billion baht to the economy over the period.

Deputy Commerce Minister Suvit Maesincee said the plan called for government support in persuading SMEs to invest more abroad, promoting social businesses and community-based enterprises, implementing the Secured Transactions Act to afford SMEs easier access to loans and expanding distribution channels for locally made products through farm outlets, community markets and central markets.

The plan also encourages SMEs, particularly in retail and wholesale, to expand into other Asean markets, thereby giving them the confidence to enter other global markets and promote Thai brands.

They can also make use of the ministry's online marketplace,

Thailand has 2.8 million SMEs, of which 610,000 are registered as juristic persons.

Some 70% of SMEs use their land as collateral, while in developed countries only 30% do.

Mr Suvit said the ministry had asked for 705 million baht in its fiscal-2016 budget for a financial-aid package to help 18,035 SMEs.

The ministry has set an ambitious plan to promote Thai franchises globally, mainly in Asean, China, Japan and the Middle East, in a bid to expand their number to 1,800 in three years from 22 now, he said.

In a related development, Industry Minister Atchaka Sibunruang said the government would need a higher budget for the planned SME aid measures, as the number of financially troubled SMEs was much higher than expected.

The ministry earlier estimated Thailand had 10,000 troubled SMEs but has since found the number is actually 300,000.

The new economic team is focusing on rescuing hard-hit SMEs via a series of financial assistance measures and tax packages offered by the Finance Ministry, with the effort spearheaded by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak.

The Industry Ministry last week proposed the aid package at the meeting of the Office of Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion committee, chaired by Prime Minister Prayut  Chan-o-cha, but Mr Somkid asked for some measures to be revised.

The original proposal called for setting up three funds to provide SMEs with liquidity to help them compete internationally.

The first fund, worth 1 billion baht, would be allocated to help companies that are facing a liquidity crunch.

The second, worth 1.5 billion baht, would help SMEs to enter new markets to boost their sales and exports.

The third fund would comprise 100 billion baht set aside by commercial banks to provide soft loans as additional liquidity for SMEs wanting to expand or invest more.

Mrs Atchaka declined to say how much more funding she thought was needed, saying only that it should be set aside for fiscal 2016.

In a separate development, the Science and Technology Ministry will try to persuade world food leaders to invest in a "Food Innopolis", billed as an innovation and development centre aimed at increasing the value of the country's abundant commodities.

Science and Technology Minister Pichet Durongkaveroj said the Food Innopolis would be the first of the government's proposed super clusters.

Details will soon be submitted to Mr Somkid for consideration, he said.

The government plans six industrial super clusters, one of them being for food processing and innovation.

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