Thailand in top five for APEC investment

To advance its national competitiveness, Thailand is committed to providing high-quality education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told fellow leaders at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) last week, as a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) survey showed that Thailand ranks among the top five APEC countries for overseas business investment.

Prime Minister Prayut delivered his address entitled “Innovative Growth, Inclusion and Sustainable Employment in the Digital Age” at the first APEC leaders’ retreat session during the summit in Danang, Viet Nam. He told his colleagues that his government is attaching the utmost importance to preparing Thai workers for the digital age as the cornerstone of Thailand 4.0, the 20-year national strategy to advance the Kingdom’s economy and society to a more innovative and higher technological level.

That goal is in line with APEC’s framework, Prayut said, on human resources and human capital development, and its people-centered philosophy on overall development during the dawn of the digital era. Recognizing the myriad challenges presented by the digital economy, the Prime Minister also proposed that the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) set up an anti-cyber crime center to tackle security risks in a systematic and coordinated fashion. He raised the idea at the ASEAN summit in Manila, the Philippines, that followed the APEC meeting.

Although the Prime Minister was addressing APEC political leaders with his remarks, APEC business leaders have become increasingly receptive to the administration’s efforts to make the Thai economy more competitive and attractive to investment.

According to a PwC report entitled “Doing business in Asia Pacific 2017-18
Perspectives from CEOs,” just over 36 percent of the 1,412 chief executive officers surveyed said they are planning on increasing their companies’ investments in Thailand over the next 12 months. That put Thailand in third place overall. All five of the leading investment destinations were in Southeast Asia, with Viet Nam and Indonesia leading the pack, and Singapore and Malaysia trailing Thailand.

“As a region, Southeast Asia is relatively stable politically, has a population of more than 600 million and a relatively young workforce. The economic policies of each country are very pro-business, encouraging corporate investment,” said Sridharan Nair, territory senior partner for PwC Malaysia/Vietnam.

He described Thailand as a “more mature” economy than Viet Nam or the Philippines, which explains those countries’ higher growth rates, and said the Kingdom would have to work harder to achieve investment levels comparable to some emerging economies.

“Thailand always has a strong base of overseas manufacturers. And I think while Thailand will have to compete with other emerging markets, it will still attract investment from Japan or other global investors,” Nair told the Bangkok Post newspaper.