At the recent Recovery Forum held on 25 June, NXPO invited Dr. Kanit Sangsubhan, Secretary General, the Eastern Economic Corridor Office of Thailand (EECO) to share his view on the direction of EEC development post-COVID.
Dr. Kanit said that Thailand has managed to control the pandemic relatively well. Despite the setback caused by COVID-19, he asserted that the EEC will be able to reach its investment target but need to extend the timeline to make up for the loss during the outbreak. China’s recent recovery has boosted the export of Thai farm commodities and agro-industry products, particularly rice, durian and mangosteen. Other sectors that experience rebound are logistics, health & wellness, real estate and community enterprises supporting health and wellness sector.
The EECO Board has been discussing measures to assist business owners and workers affected by the COVID-19 crisis such as providing credit line to SMEs; expanding export market to countries with fast recovery such as CLMV, China, Taiwan and Japan; assisting laid-off EEC workers to find jobs within and outside of EEC; upskilling and reskilling program; stimulating domestic tourism; investing in community development with projects such as building reservoirs and upgrade local markets as well as promoting tourism; and supporting university volunteer program to have university students working on community development projects. The upskilling and reskilling program will be important as it will help workforce to develop skills that will be in high demands by the industry. EECO is also working with the Ministry of Public Health on the flexible alternative quarantine for business travelers and the establishment of alternative state quarantine facility in the EEC.
Nevertheless, Dr. Kanit has pointed out the silver lining of COVID-19 that it allows VDO conference to be used to its fullest potential. He has been in contact with CEOs from all over the world through online meeting – an opportunity hard to come by under normal circumstances. He used this opportunity to discuss digital technology with investors from China, Japan and Taiwan.
Participants in the meeting drew the attention to an over 90% drop in automobile production in major car-producing countries including India. It presents an opportunity for Thai automotive industry to fill the gap, but the government will need to relax its export measure and develop manpower to meet the demands of this industry in term of quantity and quality.
On manpower development, NXPO President Dr. Kitipong Promwong added that the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation (MHESI) is supporting universities to develop reskilling and upskilling programs to upgrade workforce for the employment which shall return after the reopening of businesses. MHESI plans to subsidize 95-100% of tuition fees. To support the implementation of Thailand Plus Package aimed at incentivizing manpower development in enterprise, NXPO is in the process of setting up Registered Training Organization (RTO) System to accredit organizations that can provide training and high-skilled employment verification system to certify expenses claimed for tax incentives by companies. System for lifelong learning through non-degree and degree programs is also being developed.