Economic reform set out by TCC

The Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC) is set to present action plans that focus on foreign workers, special economic zones and facilitating border trade.

They will be discussed by a meeting of the Joint Public-Private Consultative Committee on July 16.

The plan is part of a joint proposal for national economic reform to be presented by seven business associations to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

TCC vice-chairman Somkiat Anurat said the chamber will propose plans that cover development in the short, medium and long terms.

The short-term plan will be launched during the interim government established by the NCPO, while the medium- and long-term plans will be handled by the government in place after the general election.

The big issue is to reduce the inequitable income of Thai people by focusing on the farming sector, where incomes are much lower than in the industrial sector.

In the medium term, the chamber will propose agricultural reform that includes more use of modern technology to increase efficiency and reduce losses during harvesting.

Mr Somkiat said the TCC also pledges to help initiate additional careers for small-scale farmers, mainly through community enterprises.

Together with the Board of Trade and the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the TCC has implemented the "One Rai, 100,000 baht" scheme over the past two years to help raise farmers' income. The scheme provides practical advice on how rice farmers can cut chemical use and input costs and raise productivity to potentially boost their earnings to 100,000 baht per rai or more.

TCC chairman Isara Vongkusolkij said its key proposal includes a request for the junta to establish special economic zones, mainly in Mae Sot in Tak province and Chiang Saen, Chiang Khong and Mae Sai in Chiang Rai province, and develop more offshore ports to reduce logistics costs.

The chamber will also call for the promotion of border and cross-border trade by extending working time at key checkpoints, facilitating the entry of tourists, amending laws and regulations and establishing a one-stop service that handles not only customs procedures but also quarantine services for plants and animals.

Mr Isara said another important issue is how to develop value chains of farm products and promote renewable energy and bioplastics based on produce such as sugar cane , tapioca, maize and oil palm.

Last week, the TCC called on the military regime to urgently look at ways to regulate the fishing industry, including registering fishing boat operators and foreign worker recruitment brokers, in an attempt to tackle labour problems and human trafficking allegations.

Although businesses expect limited impact from the downgrade to Tier 3, the lowest level, in the "Trafficking in Persons" report issued last month by the US State Department, the report has damaged the country's export image.

The TCC has set up a special task force to study the labour issue intensively and map out action plans for all related parties to pursue, but Mr Isara conceded it would take time.

The TCC is due this week to present its study on how to overhaul the entire labour system to the Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking.

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