ASEAN is now gearing up for liberalization in services and investment as part of an effort to attract greater foreign direct investment (FDI) into the bloc's industrial and service sectors, strengthen integration and better compete with other non-ASEAN countries like China and India. The ultimate goal is to establish an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015. By then, ASEAN will have become a single market with a common manufacturing base – where trade, services and investment will be liberalized, with free flows of skilled labor and freer flow of capital movements. Thailand, as an ASEAN member, should expeditiously boost competitiveness in the global arena via closer collaboration between the public and private sectors. Thailand's investment atmosphere should also be improved steadily in a more systematic way in a bid to draw more foreign direct investment from other countries both within the ASEAN bloc and external to it. Thailand should brace for full liberalization in services and investment slated for 2015 per ASEAN commitments. The measures that should be considered for improving Thailand's competitiveness can be summarized in the following:
1. Increase the number of skilled workers -- Currently, skilled workers in Thailand fall short of demand in the industrial and service sectors, e.g., in the textile, electronics and agro-industrial product industries. Other potential services include health and tourism. Sufficient availability of qualified skilled workersis quite vital to improving productivity in order to maintain our competitiveness and attract greater FDI into the country.
2. Reduce the cost of logistics – At present, Thailand's logistics costs are rather high. This results in businesses having high operational costs and suffer delays in doing business, which affects Thailand's competitiveness and deteriorates the country's investment atmosphere. The state sector should urgently carry out development plans to upgrade Thailand's logistics systems to conform with international standards, thus supporting our positioning to become a hub of trade for the Indochina region. They should also amend rules and regulations to be more favorable and convenient to the business sector.
3. Promote R&D – The state sector should support and increase R&D linkages between educational institutions and the business sector in order to create new innovations and implement them to benefit Thailand's business and industrial sectors, stimulate technological development and the boost the production of goods with higher added value. Moreover, research and development on quality for Thai goods to attain international quality as well as pass consumer safety standards will not only help to increase the value of goods, improve production efficiency, reduce production costs and create a favorable climate for investment, it R&D would also eradicate non-tariff barriers, preserve the domestic environment, improve consumer safety standards and create well-being for the populace throughout the country.
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