PM Prayut says science and technology key to Thai future
An economy based more on science, innovation and creativity will be crucial to Thailand’s future success and the government has adopted policies to reward technology transfer from investors and trading partners, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told Thai professionals in the United States last week, as several Thai corporations have begun devoting more resources to research and development.
The meeting between the Thai Prime Minister and the Association of Thai Professionals in America and Canada was marked by two-way communications, with Association members telling the Prime Minister that they supported the government’s policy to use science and technology for development, as Thailand needed to compete with other nations, according to Deputy Government Spokesman Werachon Sukhond – hapatipak. Engineers from the Association who possess expertise on water management said they were ready to cooperate and assist the government in developing more widespread and effective water management in the country, Werachon said. Water management is a crucial issue for Thailand. Farmers in the arid northeast lack irrigation and so are less productive and earn less. The ongoing El Nino weather phenomenon has exacerbated a drought and the government has been urging the public to be more conservative in using water, as dam levels are low. Lack of sufficient water supplies can also have an adverse affect on industry.
Conversely, four years ago, Thailand was hit with massive flooding that covered a significant section of the upper half of the country, destroying homes, businesses and crops. Floodwaters reached the outer areas of Bangkok, where the Thailand Science Park, a government-supported center for research and development, mainly by entrepreneurs, is situated.
Transforming Thailand from an assembly-plant economy to one that reaps the benefits of science, creativity and innovation has been a goal of successive governments. The policies appear to be taking hold, according to The Nation, an English-language daily newspaper, which wrote last week that “many parts of Thailand are making greater use of research and development,” and that the Prime Minister’s “vision is in keeping with Thailand’s aim to become a ‘smart’ nation via innovation that boosts the economy and improves living conditions.”
Recent examples of the private sector giving more resources to research and development include Thammasat University, one of the leading educational institutions in the country, signing an agreement last week with FOMM Corporation of Japan and Bangchak Petroleum to conduct a one-year study on electric cars.
Also, the new head of Siam Cement Group (SCG), the country’s premier building materials corporation, affirmed his commitment to focus more on high value-added products, which demand more research and development. This year SCG plans to increase its research budget to exceed one percent of sales.
The paper cited one obstacle to Thailand achieving its goals of creating an innovation-based economy: the lack of enough trained and qualified personnel to carry out the transformation. Although the government is putting more resources into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education, many school outside of large urban areas lack laboratories, equipment and other facilities to nurture and develop promising young students.
Making the most of Thailand’s human resource potential is crucial to creating the type of economy needed to propel the Kingdom to the next level of development.
Photo credit: www.thaigov.go.th