Former WTO chief Supachai supports Thai national plan

Former World Trade Organization Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi praised the Thai government’s 20-year transformation strategy called Thailand 4.0 as “the right path” for the country, adding that national plans are necessary to guide countries towards equitable and sustainable development.

“Drawing a long-term strategic plan is essential and it is the right move by the government. Every sector needs to get involved whether they agree or not,” Supachai said. “As the prime minister said, we need to merge the national strategy with the national development plan.”

A former Deputy Prime Minister, Supachai served as the Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) from 2002 to 2005, and then as Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) for two terms from 2005 through 2013.

Thailand’s national development plans are five-year regimes drawn up by the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), the national economic planning agency, since the 1960s. The national strategy, Thailand 4.0, was formulated by the current government and would span 20 years.

Thailand 4.0 seeks to transform the Thai economy from one dependent on assembling industrial products designed and developed in more advanced nations, to one that relies on homegrown creativity, innovation, research and development, higher technologies and green technologies.

The strategy is intended to ensure that Thailand escapes the ‘middle-income trap’ many developing countries fall into, where they reach a ceiling on their competitiveness and development because they fail to innovate and continue to evolve.

Last week, Supachai accepted an appointment from the government to its super-committee on reforms. He made the comments supporting the national strategy after meeting with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha at Government House in Bangkok.

Asked by reporters if he is confident the national strategy would succeed, Supachai replied that he believes it would. “Yes, I am. This effort must be done. We can’t go without it,’’ he said.

Supachai was one of 39 advisors to the super committee on reform who met with Prime Minister Prayut last week. It was their first meeting with the country’s leader. As a group, they urged the prime minister to seek more opinions from all stakeholders and encourage more participation from the private sector, the general public and all sectors of society.

The advisors also urged the prime minister to make human development the top priority of his reforms in order to achieve sustainable development, peace and unity.