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Thai workforce must be prepared for digital economy

Thailand’s new government must invest heavily in developing Thailand’s manpower in order to survive in the fast-moving digital economy, the President of the Thailand Development and Research Institute (TDRI) reportedly urged.

The Thai workforce is in the midst of digital disruption; if skills are not developed in time to serve the new system, the workers will end up having to move out of the labour market. Moreover, the government has been advised to develop the skills of the national workforce so it is ready to serve the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC).

From 2015 to 2018, investments in the EEC worth THB1.014 trillion have been approved and most of them are in the sectors of petrochemical, auto, agriculture, biotechnology, robotics and aviation.

Most of these industries require workers who have high expertise and the ability to learn quickly. Hence, it should be the government’s top priority to prepare manpower so it can serve the new economy and help push the country towards the digital economy in line with the Thailand 4.0 strategy, he said.

The President of TDRI also stated that while the new government will continue to drive the EEC to boost aggressive investments from the private sector, it should also look to collaborate with neighbouring communities and address concerns, especially those related to the environment.

The head of TDRI noted that while it will not be easy for the new government to run the country as it has in the past five years if it listens to the people and does what they want, the administration will be stable, he said.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Thailand Bankers’ Association, stated at a press conference that the new government will also have to boost the ease of doing business for Thai exporters and that the Bank of Thailand will have to bring down interest rates as soon as possible to make Thai exports more competitive.

The THB10 billion economic stimulus that the new government is expected to implement will not be enough to cushion the decline in Thai exports.

The Chairman of the Board of Trade of Thailand noted that the government will have to be more proactive in supporting Thai exporters by implementing short-term measures to boost shipments. Short-term measures may include improving logistics infrastructure at Thailand’s borders to cut down on the transportation costs for business.

Authorities have also been advised to talk to neighbouring countries about making their customs formalities available 24 hours so the flow of goods within the region can be improved.

Moreover, Thailand should be allowed to trade in the Thai currency with other countries in order to minimise the risks associated with foreign-exchange volatility.

Another factor having a negative impact on Thai exports is the strong baht, according to the Chairman of the Thai Federation of Industries.

Since January, the baht has appreciated 5.7 per cent, valuing at THB30.8 against the US dollar on 8 July 2019; this marked the highest level of currency appreciation against the greenback in the Asia-Pacific region, research showed.

“The baht’s strength against the dollar compared to the currencies of its competitors such as Vietnam makes Thai exports a lot less competitive in international markets,” Supant added.

Hence, it is necessary that the Bank of Thailand immediately implement measures like lowering policy interest rates by at least 0.25 per cent to slow the pace of the baht’s appreciation.

The JSCCIB is looking to set up a meeting by the end of next week with the central bank to address this issue. The committee has predicted that exports this year will contract 1 per cent from 2018. It had earlier this year projected an export growth of 3 to 5 per cent.

The committee has also brought its earlier forecast for GDP growth this year from 3 per cent to 2.9 per cent.

That being said, the US-China trade war continues to be a key factor in damaging exports, especially in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors.

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