Small and medium-size enterprises account for some 35 per cent of the Thai economy, hiring 70 per cent of the country’s workforce.
As Thailand’s political parties drum up support ahead of the country’s upcoming polls, an important segment of its economy is making its demands known.
Small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), which form a significant part of the Thai economy, have expressed a desire for greater funding to support their businesses.
Businesses also told CNA that they are looking for training programmes to help enhance the skills of their workers.
Thailand will hold its elections on May 14, with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha already confirmed to be running for re-election.
Political parties have started hitting the campaign trail, dishing out electoral promises to small business owners, such as debt moratoriums and raising the minimum wage.
However, experts said that such measures would require a significant boost in the national budget and also the amending of certain pre-existing laws.
SEEKING GREATER SUPPORT
SMEs in Thailand account for some 35 per cent of the economy. They hire 70 per cent of the country’s workforce.
They will play a big part in the next government’s plan to boost growth, a key priority if Thailand wants to surpass the 3.7 per cent economic growth forecast by the World Bank next year.
Jeh Jong Fried Pork owner Jongjai Kitsawang said she hopes businesses like hers will be top of mind for politicians, not just before, but also after the election.
She has a total of 11 branches across Bangkok, and has been running with little to no government support for the last 20 years.
“When politicians conduct campaigns seeking support, they usually think of the small ordinary people first. But once they’ve won and achieved where they want to be, we’re never in their eyes anymore,” she said.
“I wish they would at least turn back to look at us after they get what they want.”
Small businesses are seeking greater funding from the next government to help them start or grow their businesses.
They also want more than just handouts, with some looking to level up with training programmes.
“Sometimes I feel left behind because lots of companies or lots of countries have been improving. But for us, (we) stay still and I would love the government to maybe give us some support to live,” said Chai Kasem Hardware Store owner Thanchanok Assavamukakul.
PARTIES’ ELECTORAL PROMISES
Among the ideas pitched by political parties are initiatives like one-stop service centres to help SMEs and an increase in healthcare benefits.
Parties such as the opposition Pheu Thai have also been reaching out to business chambers to seek their views.
Mr Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said that even if there is an increase in spending to boost the private sector, the government needs to figure out how to secure constant revenue to make the model sustainable in the long run.
He noted that while politicians typically have policies and measures, they are unable to put them into action.
“There must be a way to deliver what they promise,” he said.
Making good on campaign promises will also be a challenge due to the high financial costs involved.
Dr Kirida Phaopichitr, director of the Thailand Development Research Institute, said proposals by the two biggest parties in the country will require some additional 2 trillion baht, on top of Thailand’s 3 trillion baht annual budget.
“So you can imagine that’s a lot of extra money that will have to be poured into the economy in order to implement the policies,” she said.
“Secondly, it has to do with the laws and the regulations here as well. Some of the policies that are being proposed will need many laws to be amended.”
That will not be an easy task, especially with a coalition government expected, said Dr Kirida.