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Thai investor sentiment buoyant, survey shows

Oct 15. 2018
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By THE NATION

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MORE THAN four-fifths of the executives interviewed for the 2018 edition of the Business Barometer: Thailand CEO Survey carried out by Oxford Business Group (OBG) said they felt positive about the country’s investment climate, despite ongoing political uncertainty and an economic recovery that remains at an early stage.

As part of its survey on the economy, the global research and consultancy firm asked more than 100 C-suite executives from across the country’s industries a wide-ranging series of questions on a face-to-face basis aimed at gauging business sentiment. 

When asked, 81 per cent of respondents said they believed their firm was likely or very likely to make a significant capital investment in the coming 12 months, suggesting that Thailand 4.0, the government’s long-term strategy for economic development, and the Eastern Economic Corridor policy, which aims to overhaul the country’s manufacturing industries, are instilling confidence among business leaders.

OBG’s findings also indicate that executives recognise the need to address skills gaps in the labour market, as efforts to move Thailand towards a high-income, value-based economy take shape. Almost one-fifth (19 per cent) of business leaders interviewed chose engineering as the skill they felt to be most in-demand, ahead of leadership, selected by 18 per cent of respondents, research and development (16 per cent), and computer technology (13 per cent). 

In answering a separate question, executives appeared broadly confident about the level of business transparency in Thailand, with more than three-quarters (76 per cent) of those interviewed viewing it as high or very high relative to the region.

The local tax environment (business and personal) was also viewed favourably by the majority of interviewees. Taxes have been a key focus for the country’s leaders in recent years and remain so, with further changes affecting land, property and e-business taxes in the pipeline, as the government seeks to find a balance between boosting the public coffers and galvanising economic activity. Just under two-thirds (63 per cent ) of business leaders surveyed told OBG they believed the current tax climate to be competitive on a global scale. Similarly, 66 per cent of respondents described their level of satisfaction with local suppliers and service providers as high or very high, spelling good news for the country as it eyes the development of advanced industries that require strong supply chains.

Unsurprisingly, when asked which external event they felt would have the biggest impact on Thailand’s economy in the short to medium term, almost half (44.4 per cent) of executives interviewed cited fluctuations in Chinese demand, followed by trade protectionism. Exports account for over 70 per cent of Thailand’s GDP, with the largest share (12.4 per cent) imported by China.

Commenting on the results in his blog, Patrick Cooke, OBG’s regional editor for Asia, said that while the group’s second survey on Thailand suggested business leaders were broadly supportive of the national drive to put in place the systems and infrastructure needed for developing advanced manufacturing and high-tech services, it had also highlighted some of their concerns.

“A recurring theme that emerged from Oxford Business Group’s on-the-ground research over the past 12 months has been the urgent need for Thailand to invest in education and skills development to ensure its workforce is equipped for the demands of a rapidly evolving economy,” he said. Cooke added that the escalation of trade tensions between the US and China into a trade war is clearly another worry for the business community.

 

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