ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Thai recovery discussed, education stressed
Accelerating the growth of the service sector and improving the quality of education should be the priorities for Thailand in driving its economic expansion and retaining its investment attractiveness, business leaders say, according to the Bangkok Post.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva opened the event with an address stressing the importance of full participation from all sectors in the reforms to narrow social and income disparities.
The World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) said reforms of the service sector and education system will help Thailand address future challenges and compete better in the world economy. Efforts should be taken to accelerate the service sector's growth, said Mathew Verghis, lead economist, as South Korea, Taiwan and India have done.
"The share of services has increased in these countries but in Thailand it's on a decline. If Thailand wants to survive, it needs to grow the service sector faster," Mr. Verghis said. A recent survey showed foreign investment in the service sector in Thailand was among the lowest in East Asia due to restrictive rules.
"Actions should be taken to ease restrictions in the Foreign Business Act and to pass the Secured Transaction Act to use accounts receivable as collateral," he added.
Jean-Pierre Verbiest, the ADB's Thailand country director, also suggested educational reforms, especially equal access to quality education for low-income citizens.
Nandor von der Luehe, chairman of the Joint Foreign Chamber of Commerce in Thailand, said education would help combat corruption, which is the core political problem in Thailand. "On the legal and enforcement sides, we found that state agencies, led by the NACC (National Anti-Corruption Commission), do not have enough teeth to combat the corruption," he said, adding that the private sector had pushed the government to ratify the UN Anti-Corruption Convention. Dusit Nontanakorn, the Board of Trade chairman, called on the Board of Investment (BoI) to focus on investment promotion instead of incentives to a broad range of activities, and on ways to improve labour skills.
Payungsak Chartsutipol, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, said educational reforms should be emphasised if Thailand is to reap the most benefits from Asean integration under the Asean Economic Community by 2015.
"Once Asean allows free flows of skilled labour, the country will be left out of the competition if our education does not improve to a level that can attract investments that have been drawn to the region," Mr. Payungsak said.
Mr. Abhisit addressed Thailand's strong economic fundamentals and the government's measures to stabilise the political situation would restore the confidence of foreign investors as well. Thailand showed strong growth of 12 percent in the first quarter, with the government projecting 5-6 percent expansion for the whole year, up from 3.5 to 5 percent projected earlier.
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