Speaking at the “Thailand Economic Outlook 2019” event, Somkid Jatusripitak said that Thailand will need to radically reform its economic structure if it wants to keep up with the changing and fast-growing Asean neighbours. The deputy PM and economics tsar also warned that in a few years Vietnam’s economy could overtake that of Thailand.
Somkid is entirely correct in describing the situation, which is known to all of us. But what he deliberately neglected to explain is why we have reached this low point. The answer is Thai culture’s deep-rooted practices of corruption, nepotism, cronyism, etc. Making things worse is the persistent low quality of Thai education. How can Thailand have an innovative and digital economy when the culture discourages people from thinking critically and challenging the traditional mindset?
In October, Thailand was ranked No 1 in the world for income disparity in a report by Swiss Bank Credit Suisse. The gap between the rich and poor is far greater than one would imagine. Thailand has many billionaires near the top of Forbes’ list. At the same time 20-30 per cent of the population is in the low-income agriculture sector where their produce fetches no added value and they find it hard to make daily ends meet. Such low incomes help the politicians to exploit them via money politics, whose dominance is aided by a centralised government bureaucracy governed by an elite few. Hence, Somkid’s talk was just political lip service.
Even as deputy PM in charge of the nation’s economy he has been unable to make tangible achievements.
As someone said a while ago, Thailand is like a patient with prostate cancer – he will not die from it, he will die with it.