Thailand’s under-performing economy needs to be given a major boost, to increase its growth rate and pull the country out of the middle-income trap, while improving the livelihoods of people at all levels, according to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin.
In his keynote speech, given at an event hosted by the Economic Reporters Association, the prime minister pointed out that Thailand’s annual growth rate for the past ten years averaged 1.8%, the lowest in this region, while household debt rose from 76% to 90% of GDP, placing Thailand among the world’s top ten countries for household debt.
He cited the case of about 30,000 Thais working in Israel, saying that most of them don’t want to be repatriated, despite the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, because of the attractive pay and the fact that some Israeli employers have offered to double their wages.
He said that the government’s decision to provide a debt moratorium to farmers, cut power and fuel prices and reduce train fares in Bangkok and its suburbs to 20 baht are just short-term measures to ease the financial burden on the people.
For the middle and long-term, the prime minister said Thailand must negotiate free trade agreements with more countries to find new markets for Thai exports, after the suspension of negotiations for the past ten years.
He explained that his overseas visits in the two months since he assumed the office were not intended to just introduce himself to other leaders, but also to explore new markets for Thai products and to convince foreign investors to invest in Thailand. He added that he does not feel ashamed of taking several Thai businessmen with him on each of his foreign trips, so they could meet with foreign counterparts to explore new business opportunities.
Citing the land bridge mega project in southern Thailand, the prime minister said it will become a major logistics hub, which will cut the transit time for cargo vessels and oil tankers by 6-9 days, instead of going through the congested Straits of Malacca.
He added, however, that he does not want the huge infrastructure project to serve only as a logistics hub, but also as a production base where foreign investors can build factories to produce goods for export.
Endowed with natural resources and its strategic location, he said Thailand is ideal for foreign investment and it has the potential for further development, economically and socially, for the good of the people.