The new government is being urged to revise import taxes on luxury products to better align with neighbouring countries to attract foreign tourists while also strengthening Thai small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) brands to make them more competitive against the foreign brands prevailing in the country.
Yol Phokasub, president of Thai Retailers Association (TRA) and chief executive of Central Retail Corporation (CRC), said import taxes on luxury goods should be reviewed so they parallel those applied in neighbouring countries. Failure to do so may hinder the country's ability to fully capitalise on the recovery in tourism, he said.
According to Mr Yol, the short-term economic stimulus policies recently announced by the government appear to be heading in the right direction. However, their immediate impact and the speed at which they achieve their goals will depend on the government's execution.
Given that a significant portion of GDP growth stems from local consumption, it is imperative to divide the economic stimulus measures into two options, he said. Firstly, the government should incentivise high-spending customer groups to continue their spending levels. Secondly, the government should assist customers with less spending power in reducing their living costs. One viable solution lies in the adoption of digital wallets, according to Mr Yol.
To ensure the rapid success of the digital wallet policy, the government should engage in discussions with the private sector. If this initiative is executed effectively, it has the potential to stimulate the economy by increasing the money in circulation three to fivefold, he said.
With numerous overseas brands having entered the country, impacting Thai SME brands significantly, Mr Yol recommended the government help upgrade and strengthen the country's SME brands.
Mr Yol said two-thirds of the retail and service sectors rely on SMEs. If these sectors do not grow, it will hinder the overall growth of the country's economy, he added.
As a higher number of foreign tourists are visiting Thailand, he said it is essential for the government to encourage them to spend on more than just travel.
"We anticipate the government's recently-approved measures to boost consumer spending will help double people's spending power over the next 6-7 months, provided the recently announced policies are implemented seriously," said Mr Yol.
He applauded the government's efforts to promote tourism in Phuket, in particular, but requested the government upgrade Phuket to a tax-free zone.
Suchada Ithijarukul, group chief executive at Central Food Wholesale, under the umbrella of Central Retail Corporation (CRC), said she believes Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who hails from the private sector, will prioritise the economy above all else.
She said the government's plan to raise the daily minimum wage is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the company as a gradual approach mitigates immediate inflationary pressures.
"The gradual increase in the minimum wage benefits the working population, and as business operators, we must adapt, while the government must effectively manage product prices. The minimum wage hike is balanced by the reduction in electricity bills, which helps lower production costs," said Mrs Suchada.
However, when it comes to the wholesale business, Mrs Suchada emphasised the importance of free and fair trade.
"The government should closely monitor this situation, ensuring that no entity exerts excessive market power," she said.
Chadatip Chutrakul, chief executive of Siam Piwat Co, the operator of Siam Paragon, Siam Center and Siam Discovery malls, said the cabinet's recent measures to reduce electricity bills and diesel prices were the correct steps to take, noting they are primary burdens for both the Thai public and the business sector.
"We in the private sector have been eagerly awaiting these measures for a long time," said Mrs Chadatip.
Regarding the government's planned proposal to raise the daily minimum wage to 400 baht, she said Siam Piwat remains unaffected as the company already pays its employees salaries that exceed the proposed minimum wage.
Mrs Chadatip commended the government's plan to offer free visas to tourists from China and Kazakhstan for a five-month period. However, she suggested the government should simultaneously focus on increasing flight availability and negotiate with other airlines to boost the number of flights to Thailand. She also stressed the importance of each of the country's airports to upgrade their infrastructure to accommodate the potential increase in flight traffic.