Speech of the Prime Minister at the dinner with U.S. companies organized by USABC and U.S. Chamber of Commerce in New York
September 25, 2015, at 1830hrs (local time) at Metropolitan Club New York, US, Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha met with members of US-ASEAN Business Council (USABC), U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and representatives from leading US companies, including Chevron, GSK and Philip Morris, on the occasion of his participation at the UN Summit for the adoption of the Post 2015 Development Agenda, and the 70th session of UN General Assembly. The prepared speech as follows;
Speech of H.E. General Prayut Chan-o-cha ( retired )
Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand,
At the Dinner held in his honour by the U.S. – ASEAN Business Council
The Metropolitan Club, New York
25 September 2015
Mr. Alex Feldman,
Ms. Tami Overby
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you, Mr. Jay Pryor, for your kind introduction. I wish to thank the USABC and US Chamber of Commerce for co-organizing this event.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the USABC on the 10th Anniversary of the establishment of its Bangkok office. During these last 10 years, we have had the pleasure of receiving USABC delegations on their regular visits to Thailand, which reflect your confidence in the country as well as the importance of Thailand to the U.S.
Last August, I was delighted to meet Mr. Alex Feldman and his USABC delegates for the second straight time. I hope that you and your members found the visit and our meeting as useful as I did.
|Returning to Stability|
I am sure you have been following the situation in Thailand, then and now. You all recall how political conflict paralyzed government after government and severely affected the business sector. In order for the country to move forward, it is necessary for us to establish peace, return some semblance of normalcy to society and proceed with the hard work of reconciliation.
I remain fully committed to the declared Roadmap and reform. To move the country forward, we need to uphold law and order, safeguard stability and lay a solid foundation for justice, the economy and foreign affairs. In so doing, the necessary groundwork will be laid to enable the next administration to continue with further reforms.
Due to the prolonged unrest and political paralysis, my Government has had to tackle all at once many issues that had long been simmering on the backburner, such as human trafficking and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUU). The Government has amended the Anti-Human Trafficking Act 2008, and enacted new legislations, such as the Thai Fisheries Act of 2015, and the Act to amend the Criminal Code to address child pornography. The Government has also gone after forced labour and human trafficking rings. These are at the top of my Government’s agenda.
On the IUU issue in particular, I wish to reaffirm my Government’s strong political will to combat IUU and to do our utmost to ensure that all fisheries products from Thailand are free from IUU practices. I hope the USABC and US Chamber of Commerce will take note of my Government’s determination and inform your members who import fisheries products from Thailand accordingly.
|Turning Crises into Opportunities|
Under the Roadmap, the general election will be held in 2017. The Government will make the most of the available time to further reform the country in every aspect, modernize rules and regulations in order to enhance competitiveness, put in place infrastructure systems and facilitate investment. These include amending existing laws and regulations to further comply with international standards, positioning the country to be a regional hub for manufacturing, services and investment as well as human resources/labour-skills development with modern transportation and logistical infrastructure.
These efforts at reform and capacity building are being conducted in parallel with a campaign to fight corruption, which the government is tackling in utmost seriousness and urgency. This is why my Government has established the National Anti-Corruption Committee (NACC), which I chair and consists of public and private sector representatives along with NGOs to address the problem in a comprehensive manner. My Government has also set up a committee to follow up on and audit government project expenditures to ensure transparency in public spending. These newly established committees will work hand-in-hand with the Office of the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Office of the Auditor-General of Thailand.
The Government has also introduced an Integrity Pact for government auctions and procurement. To ensure greater transparency, the Pact would be open to inspection by experts from civil society. In addition, my Government has introduced a Construction Sector Transparency (CoST) system for all large construction projects by state enterprises to ensure transparency and compliance with international standards. I can assure you that my government will not waver in our efforts to create a climate of transparency and accountability.
At the same time, I am fully aware of the urgent need for education reform to upgrade our human resources. This will be the key to move our country forward. The Government has established a Policy and Education Development Committee. Made up of education specialists, the committee will propose a path for education reform to enhance education quality from kindergarten to tertiary and vocational school levels. Our labor-skills development must be raised to international standards.
Besides general skills development, the Government has measures to improve labor quality in the region as well as in the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to match the sets of skills required by investors. There will also be incentives, such as tax privileges or special facilitation to be further announced, for companies and foreign institutions that invest in training and research & development in the SEZs. The Government hopes that American companies and educational institutions will be interested in working with us on education and human resources development. Here, I would like to note with appreciation Chevron’s project on the “Thailand Partnership Initiative” which seeks to promote STEM education and vocational education.
Economic structural reform is key when we talk about enhancing the country’s competitiveness and regional economic strength. We therefore welcome investment not only in SEZs, but also in Super Clusters and areas of innovation. This would be done through developing important connecting infrastructure in each area, providing privileges in special investments and encouraging business facilitation. This will accompany our efforts to reduce inequality and empower local communities, combining inner empowerment with external support.
To promote outside-in strengthening, the Government will create “clusters” for high-potential industries and “super clusters” for future high-technology industries. This would generate rural employment, support industrial diversification, and create new industries. The Government has designated industrial zones in 9 new areas (in the North, Central, West and South regions) for these clusters. Examples of those of high-technology and innovative industries include medicine, medical equipment, electrical appliances and telecommunications equipment. Other potential clusters may include existing industries where Thailand already has an edge, such as processed agro-products, textiles and garments.
The Government will provide tax incentives such as exemption of corporate income tax for up to 15 years, exemption of personal income tax for leading specialists to work in the country, exemption for machinery tariffs, and non-tax incentives for investors such as granting permanent residency for foreign specialists as well as extension of land leases and special rates for such leases.
At the same time, the Government is supporting SMEs to survive and grow in the midst of the global economic slowdown. We are providing 2.8 billion dollars in low-interest loans for SMEs. We have reduced the corporate income tax from 20% to 10%. We are also encouraging new business startups through a venture capital fund. The Government will exempt for 5 years corporate income tax for new businesses that add value through innovation.
Furthermore, the Government seeks to reduce social inequality by providing assistance to low income earners and rural farmers, who play an important part in the country’s production chain. The Government provides funding resources and promotes small projects in support of community businesses. We believe that small businesses can play an important part in the value chain for foreign investors in Thailand.
As investors, you are naturally interested in the cost of doing business abroad. To enhance the ease of doing business in Thailand, which is ranked 26th by the World Bank, the Government plans to improve its One Stop Service Center to standardize procedures, shorten processing times and reduce red tape in the issuance of permits.
One important side benefit of legal and regulatory reform, the raising of labor standards, and facilitation of trade and investment is to prepare Thailand for the day when the government decides to be part of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
In closing, let me say how very pleased I am to be invited by the “Friends of Thailand” to this wonderful dinner at the magnificent Metropolitan Club. Let me assure you that my Government is doing everything possible to move forward to a general election and return the country to full-fledged democracy. However, in order for the country to move forwards towards democracy, it needs to have stability, and sustainable human social and economic development.
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