Wednesday, July 08, 2020

National strategy: political gamesmanship and Thailand 4.0 don’t mix

Oct 23. 2018
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Reviewing the 20-year national strategy, it’s striking how few specifics are laid down. By itself, this should not be surprising since a strategy, by nature, is only meant to provide broad guidelines and goals while allowing flexibility in implementation to meet shifting circumstances in our fast-changing world.

However, our national strategy is written into a draconian law that can only be amended every five years through a lengthy legal process. It also comes with harsh penalties that include impeachment of officials should any implementation plan stray from the guidelines. The National Strategy law fails to clearly spell out certain crucial specifics – particularly key performance indicators – leaving their interpretation to the national strategy commission. So it’s not inconceivable that legal procedures may be used as a political tool to block or eliminate political opponents. Consequently, the implementation phase of the law may be a ticking political time bomb.

But even the potential political quagmires pale in comparison to the corrosive effect the law may have on the drive to lift Thailand from the middle-income trap. Contrary to its intended goal of kick-starting an innovative Thailand 4.0 mindset, the command and control structure plus the harsh penalties for non-compliance are instead likely to promote risk avoidance and suppress innovation. Who would want to risk ruining their careers by stepping outside the box and trying something new? But isn’t that the whole point of Thailand 4.0, whose ultimate aim is to create new S-curve industries?

Political gamesmanship and Thailand 4.0 are mutually exclusive.

Anan Pakvasa


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