Thai PM Abhisit’s remarks at 20th WEF-EA in Jakarta
Thailand has been picked as the host of the 21st World Economic Forum on East Asia which will be held next year. Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Monday took part in the 20th World Economic Forum on East Asia in Jakarta. PM Abhisit had an opportunity to make his remarks during the “Thailand Luncheon” session, as follow:
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to be your host at today’s Thailand Luncheon. I’d like to convey my sincere congratulations to the Indonesian Government and the participants from all over the world in making the 20th anniversary of the World Economic Forum on East Asia a success. East Asia has, no doubt, emerged as one of the most important regions in the world, as a strong and dynamic engine of growth that has led many countries out of the latest financial crisis.
With this momentum, all eyes are indeed on East Asia. The region has developed rapidly with ASEAN at its core. The Republic of Korea and Vietnam have hosted previous WEF on East Asia meetings, and this year we have gathered here in Indonesia. As an important pillar of ASEAN, Thailand is honoured to host the 21st WEF on East Asia in 2012. So next year, I hope that you will all be visiting Thailand to take part in deliberating the region’s opportunities and challenges and its roles and responsibilities for the decades to come. And I can assure you that you will enjoy and benefit greatly from your participation in our Land of Smiles.
(On new globalism and the rise of Asia)
The global financial crisis and the recent debt crisis in Europe have reminded us once again that we are indeed “one global community”. Such a global-scale crisis needs global cooperation and solutions. The pledge for the post-crisis global action, which has accelerated the economic rebound, has given us opportunities to reflect and rethink our development objectives. While focusing on economic growth we must also emphasize inclusiveness and equality, regardless of differences in stages of development. At the same time we must address reform of the global governance system which has led to the “new growth model”, promoting development that is more inclusive and more sustainable.
Asia is now regarded as one of the most dynamic regions, and Asia is continuously evolving and expanding. ASEAN, meanwhile, will have a combined GDP of almost 2.9 trillion US dollars and a population of close to 700 million when we achieve the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015. ASEAN has also been continuing to broaden and deepen relations with other countries and regions, like in the ASEAN Plus Six framework, with China, Japan, Republic of Korea, India, Australia, and New Zealand. This grouping will have a combined GDP of approximately 25 trillion US dollars and a population of 3.5 billion in 2015, almost half of the world’s population.
But for today, to sustain global economic recovery, it is important to accelerate national development that is focused on inclusive growth and sustainability. While successfully catalyzing its growth engines towards sustained economic recovery, Thailand has attached high importance to a human-centered development strategy that enhances our peoples’ productivity. We also aim to enable all segments of the society to have equal opportunities and maximise the benefits from the accumulated wealth of the country.
(On building up Thailand’s competitive edge)
Though Thailand has experienced a series of unprecedented challenges in the last few years, the business community has shown itself to be strikingly resilient. Despite many challenges, economic development remains our shared goal, and there are many factors behind our accomplishments which we are proud of.
Firstly, Thailand has maintained solid macro-economic foundations, underscored by the dynamism of its economy. The GDP has grown 7.8 per cent in 2010, the second highest in ASEAN and third highest in Asia. This is a remarkable rebound, and the growth is expected to be quite healthy this year. The value of export in 2010 increased almost 29 percent year-on-year, and in the first four months it has increased over 27 percent compared to the same period the previous year. Thailand’s unemployment currently remains at a very low rate of 0.7 per cent. Our public debt to GDP ratio is around 41 per cent with foreign currency reserves of 187.5 billion US dollars — among the world’s top 13. The private banking system is sound and healthy with a manageable inflation rate that was also reflected in the recent WEF Global Competitiveness Report that ranked Thailand 8 of 139 economies for low inflation. We have also implemented many measures to increase income for the majority of the people, reduce costs of living, and provide social security benefits, which have substantially increased the people’s purchasing power.
Secondly, because of many factors, Thailand is one of ASEAN’s gateways to the world. Let me cite some examples of clusters of important business activities that make us the regional hub in different industries. In the food industry, Thailand has long been known as the Kitchen of the World, not only from our wealth of tastes and spices, but as the world’s biggest rice exporter.
Moreover, Thailand is the world’s number one producer for hard disk drives and its supporting industries, as well as Southeast Asia’s number one in the petrochemical industries.
For the automotive industry, we now have a production capacity of 2.1 million automobile units per year and currently rank among the top 15 automobile producing countries. By 2016, I believe that we will be in the world’s top 10. We are already the world’s largest manufacturer for one-ton pick-up trucks. And as all cars use rubber tires, you will also find that Thailand is also the biggest producer and exporter of natural rubber. For those who are interested in value-added investment in rubber, Thailand welcomes you and is keen to offer many investment privileges.
In tourism, in the first quarter of this year, we have already 5 million visitors, including many who come as medical tourists and have their check-ups while enjoying the country. With this trend, I believe that we will be host of up to 18 million visitors this year. Of course our services are second to none and Thai hospitality is known worldwide.
Moreover, the Government has been working on its transition to a Creative Economy which focuses on innovation and creativity to drive new ideas by being creative, be it in design, fashion, animation, graphic arts, or digital media. The aim is to boost growth by being creative and different; to nurture a skilled and creative workforce; to strengthen intellectual property rights; and to capitalize on our rich culture and national heritage. We aim to increase the country’s proportion of creative economy value to 20% of GDP by 2012.
Thirdly, Thailand has a good investment environment. UNCTAD’s Multinational Cooperation Report rated Thailand as the 11th most attractive FDI destination and the World Bank rated us at rank 19th in its Ease of Doing Business ranking. The latest World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report also ranked Thailand at the world’s top 12th for Investor Protection, 23rd for Market Size and 24th for Labour Market Efficiency. From January to April 2011, 3.6 billion US dollars worth of new applications were received by our Board of Investment. These figures speak for themselves.
Fourthly, Thailand has well-developed infrastructure with a strategic location in the heart of Southeast Asia. Last year, the World Economic Forum ranked Thailand at 35th in infrastructure. In the next five to six years, the existing domestic infrastructure networks will be upgraded through mega infrastructure investment projects worth 25 billion US dollars, ranging from deep-sea port development to upgrading rail networks. We are developing the Laem Chabang sea port and linking it with Dawei sea port that is being developed, to connect the two important oceans as commercial routes and as part of the East-West Corridor. On our rail networks, we are increasing its capacity and speed, therefore reducing logistics costs. We will also have a high-speed train connecting Southern China to Malaysia and Singapore. As you can see, Thailand has been working with ASEAN and countries of the region to enhance connectivity, which will offer real opportunities for trade and investments in the region and unleash the potential of the ASEAN Economic Community that will be realised in 2015.
Last but not least, Thailand recognizes the global environmental challenges, and has played an important role in addressing the issue of climate change. Thailand is focused on green growth and being an environmentally-friendly country. Thailand is working towards a true transformation to a greener and cleaner economy, and also press ahead for “eco-friendly” industries to protect the environment and to conserve energy. This direction is also reflected in our investment policy for sustainable development, such as maximum incentives for investment in energy conservation, alternative energy-related activities and the manufacturing of eco-friendly materials and products. We also aim to use renewable energy as 20% of our total energy use by the year 2022.
(On invitation to join WEF on East Asia 2012 in Thailand)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have outlined to you Thailand’s accomplishments and potential. Most of you may already know Thailand as the Land of Smiles, or as a tourism and medical health destination. But we are also home to so many important clusters of industries. And with the general election scheduled in Thailand early next month, it is clear that Thailand is a country of continuity and resilience, and we are moving forward in our democratic development. We are fully committed to host next year’s World Economic Forum on East Asia, which I am pleased to extend a warm invitation of the Royal Thai Government and our people to all of you to visit Thailand, to see for yourselves the potential and opportunities that Thailand has to offer as a country of choice and a reliable business partner of choice. Thank you and Sawasdee Krub.