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Issues remain despite Thailand's climb in competitiveness
Publication Date : 05-09-2013
Thailand has advanced for the second year in a row in a global competitiveness ranking, but challenges are considerable on many fronts.
Rising to 37th, the Kingdom's overall competitiveness was boosted mainly by sound fiscal situation and strengths in the private sector. However, in the "Global Competitiveness Report 2013-2014" of the World Economic Forum, the country's political and policy instability, excessive red tape, omnipresent corruption and clientelism, security concerns, low reliability and high uncertainty around property-rights protection seriously undermine the quality of Thai public institutions (85th).
Aside from the public institutions - or the strength of the public sector - poor public health (74th) and education are two other critical building blocks of competitiveness. These areas require urgent attention. For instance, Thailand displays one of the highest HIV (human immunodeficiency virus, which can cause Aids) prevalence rates outside Africa, while enrolment in and the quality of higher education remain abnormally low.
Turning to more sophisticated areas, which are just as important given Thailand's stage of development, technological readiness remains low (78th) when considering technologies beyond mobile telephony. Only a quarter of the population accesses the Internet on a regular basis, and only a small fraction does so at broadband speeds, but the growth is rapid.
On a more positive note, Thailand ranks high on the macroeconomic environment pillar (31st, its best showing among the 12 pillars) owing to a very favourable fiscal situation, its high savings rate, an inflation rate under control at around 3 per cent, and a comparitively good debt-to-GDP ratio of about 44 per cent in 2012.
In addition, the country continues to improve in the financial-development (32nd) and market-efficiency pillars (34th), having progressed 17 and 10 places respectively in the past four years. Room for improvement remains, however, especially when it comes to promoting domestic competition (60th).
Corruption was ranked as the most problematic factor for doing business by Thai respondents, followed by government and political instability.