This is the agenda for economic change for Thailand in the wake of the global financial crisis – it is very difficult to separate this from the political agenda for change but, under the current repressive Abhisit regime, it is simply too dangerous to speak honestly about politics and still live in the Kingdom. So, let us try to focus on the economic side:
Firstly, the principal problem remains the extreme vulnerability of the Thai economy to external economic change (because of the reliance on exports and tourism and the high proportion of GDP spent on importing oil and gas). This is revealed particularly at the current time when job losses are nearly all in the manufacturing sector and have been caused by reduced international demand for Thai goods.
To deal with this: either (or preferably both) enable more Thai people to buy these products so that they are not reliant on international customers; or take more of the products out of the commodity class by adding value to them – people buy commodities (rice, shrimps, fruit) based on price because they see no differences between products from rival producers. Added value products attract an extra fee (a premium) because customers are more loyal to them – they have brands or logos or people recognise their higher quality.
Secondly, there is a need to improve the labour market and provide for additional social mobility – currently, it is next to impossible for Thais from poorer backgrounds to obtain the education and qualifications necessary to escape into the professional or managerial classes. Patronage networks exclude the poor, no matter how valuable or talented they may be and this is an increasingly inexcusable situation for a country seeking to elevate itself from mid-level income status to high-level income status.
Achieving this latter point requires significant change in mentality which it seems difficult to achieve without genuine democracy – and I am going to stay away from that topic today.
More on this topic later (and then it will be back to whingeing about the traffic, dogs, weather etc).