While political crisis shock foreign SMEs, Thailand plans SMEs global push in 2014

Map of the current ASEAN members.

Map of the current ASEAN members. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As foreign Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs) are showing reluctance to move to Thailand, Thailand is planning to push its own SME, particularly OTOP, in 2014.

Australian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are hesitant to invest in Thailand because of perceived political uncertainty, says the Australian-Thai Chamber of Commerce. Leigh Scott-Kemmis, president of AustCham Thailand, said the perception has been built over time and is very difficult to overcome.

A plan has been worked out to promote small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in 2014, with an emphasis on upgrading producers of the “One Tambon, One Product,” or OTOP, program to SME operators.

Director-General of the Office of Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion Patima Jeerapaet said that the upgrading of OTOP producers to SME operators would be carried out through several projects, such as “OTOP Plus.”

The project aims to boost OTOP products in the international market, add value to the products, and promote the identity of Thai products, especially in the ASEAN region.

According to the plan, new SME operators will be provided with occupational development. An SME center will be established through cooperation between the Office of Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion and the Institute for Small and Medium Enterprises Development. The center will organize various activities to promote marketing for SME operators and provide them with training.

It will cooperate with the SME Development Bank of Thailand in seeking new ways for SME operators to have greater access to funding sources. In addition, efforts will be made to provide more opportunities for SME operators to expand their markets in ASEAN. When the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is in place in 2015, ASEAN will become a market of 600 million people. Both SMEs and OTOP operators would have greater opportunities.

An ASEAN publication titled SME Guidebook Towards the AEC 2015 was officially launched on 25 November 2013 at the sidelines of the 33rd ASEAN SME Agencies Working Group Meeting. The publication aims to help SMEs in the region prepare for the implementation of AEC in 2015.

SMEs have a strategic and significant role in the regional economy. By providing opportunities for entrepreneurship and innovation, SMEs will foster greater participation in all sectors. In order to enable SME operators to compete effectively in the world market and to survive in AEC, business matching between Thai SMEs and their foreign counterparts will be promoted.

Thailand’s Third SME Promotion Master Plan (2012-2016) aims to make SMEs the primary driving force of the Thai economy by giving importance to the development of their capacity, so that they may run their businesses using knowledge, creativity, innovation, and cultural uniqueness, both at the sectoral level and at the entrepreneurial level.

Both SMEs and OTOP are strong foundations for Thailand’s economic development. Their combined value is 3.9 trillion baht, accounting for 37 percent of GDP. They employ almost 11 million people, accounting for 84 percent of the country’s labor force.

In the Fourth SME Promotion Master Plan starting in 2017, a target is set to increase the GDP of Thailand’s SMEs to 40 percent.

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