Thursday, 22 September 2016

Export growth driven through Thailand and UK?

Khun Bandid Nijathworn, CEO of Hitotsubashi University, and Thai Institute of Directors, makes some profound points on the global economy in his Bangkok Post article yesterday: “Thailand’s economy needs new growth drivers”.

China’s slow growth and debt and low interest rates is but one aspect of a global triple whammy along with the parlous state of the USA housing market and fragile Eurozone.

Here in UK interest rates are at their lowest-ever level since the founding of the Bank of England in 1694 and even Japan has slumped into negative interest rates. The effects of the Brexit announcements for UK are yet to be fully-realised although OECD data this week suggests the UK economy has remained robust through the Summer with a slight increase in growth from 1.7% to 1.8%.

And with Thailand also recording a slight increase in growth to 3.3%, as detailed by Khun Bandid, but a 90% reduction in FDI - and the OECD slightly downgrading UK growth next year from 2% to 1%, then he is right that more in both nations needs to be done with such weak growth beyond just calls for government stimulus.

Politically, Thailand has a clear and stable roadmap back to full democracy and the kudos of the G77 chair, while the UK’s politics is still froth rather than substance at the moment – the LibDems party conference this week, the UK’s middle ground party between the Yellowshirts and Redshirts if you will, joked that they had the longest-serving UK party leader…all of 12 months.

Thailand, more so than UK at the moment, also has a clear action plan for its economy: the 2017 budget bill has been passed with a focus on hi-quality workers, SEZ, SME, R&D and higher priced branded agricultural products.

--Future Thailand and UK--

Surely, in my politics work of Meiji reforms in UK, and advertising role, such activity should form the basis of a joint UK-Thai economic programme to drive growth in both nations?

The problems of Thailand’s recent floods (and here in UK) and horrifying Ayutthaya ferry disaster are specific incidents underlining the need for prompt action as part of longer-term activity. On floods, shouldn’t UK and Thailand and Netherlands, the latter probably the world’s experts on water management, form a consortium for specific activity? To be blunt, UK and NL support would unlock not only their national funding but more importantly sustained EU and ADB/ASEAN activity in the Thailand and Mekong Delta for river management and sewer and monkey cheeks programmes?

While the UK need take no lessons from any nation in river and sea safety(or road safety with only 1,700 deaths and Kent Police active this week on Project Edward an EU-wide road safety programme) - with the RNLI lifeboats charity on coasts and rivers, also now even in the Thames in London following the Marchioness riverboat disaster of 51 deaths.

Prince William the heir to the UK throne after Prince Charles has also highlighted his search-and-rescue helicopter work. Along with the UK-Japan helicopter project that is waiting to take flight.

School swimming programmes and sports centre and swimming pool infrastructure must be ripe for UK-Thai cooperation – even preparation for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Thailand’s 2017 budget bill provides for £323BN THB, 13% of public expenditure, such as 47M THB to two universities, again surely ripe for cooperation between UK universities and Hitotsubashi and Thai universities? Today Oxford University becomes the first UK university to top the Times University league table – and with 19 other UK universities in the top 100.

The Science Ministry provides for 1.1BN THB for STEM activity with schools and universities. While the PM’s Office provides for 8.5M THB for digital training alone.

And with SRT, its 3.3BN THB funding allocation is timely, with the announcement this week of the completion of the Thai-Cambodia railway link at the border. The challenge now with dynamic companies such as Hitachi and their work on Thailand’s Purple Line, and HS1 hi-speed rail here in Kent's Ashford, is to deliver the rest of the rail network across Cambodia and through to HCMC.

That’s a distance about the same as London-Newcastle (the UK HS2 route) which is apt given the existing Kasetsart and Newcastle University rail engineering cooperation, and site of the second major Hitachi depot in the UK’s North East – one of the largest outside Japan.

--Beyond Big Ticket Economics--

And beyond the big-ticket multi-national projects and global macro-economics, surely UK and Thailand could work together on OTOP activity on silk or rice, expanding the dynamic Thai bank and insurance offering into London, and creating a raft of SME and start-up activity for both nations?

UK and Thai cooperation on Zika and Dengue and AMR vaccines and hospital exchange programmes must surely be pushing against an open door? While the potential in retail, automotive and textiles and fishing and mega-infrastructure projects all down the line needs little explanation.

On automotive for example, the UK this week announced its highest 6 month car manufacturing figures since 2000 of 1,023,723 cars, and highest August manufacturing figures since 2002 of 109,000 cars. While the Ford Bridgend auto factory celebrates its 20 millionth engine produced in 37 years.

The dynamic Local Government Minister and former Tourism and Business Minister Sajid Javid is getting into the fast lane too, with Kent’s dynamic Business Minister Greg Clark and dynamic Trade Minister Liam Fox, leading a US trade mission for the Midlands Engine, part of the Northern Powerhouse business-growth programmes.

All must be ripe for partnership with Thailand’s expanding automotive parts sector. And that volume of automotive expertise drives through into the hispeed rail and aerospace and space markets too as Thailand steps up the value chain.

Just one point on the latter, Germany’s street protests against TTIP between EU and USA, can only mean greater emphasis on the less contentious Trans-Pacific Partnership, and links such as say Vinh deep sea port with rail connectivity through to the markets of Vientiane and Isaan.

The ships of the future jostling for space in Vinh harbour destined for the USA and Latin American markets should be full not just of Vietnamese coffee and Lao sticky rice and Thai orchids, but Thai automotive parts, Vietnamese mobile phone parts and Lao water turbines.

And hopefully there will room in the shipping and rail containers for even more sticky rice too.

The EU Bratislava Summit concluded last week with the bold announcement of free wifi and 5G in every European city before 2020. London alone would require 500,000 mini-masts, and the likes of True and AIS and their manufacturing supply chain, and engineers and software designers, must surely want to participate in European markets?

If the UK and Thai Royal Mint are already working together – in literally printing money – then why shouldn’t British Telecom and True metaphorically do the same?

UK and Laos have announced their first Lao postage stamp with a British designer – why shouldn’t the dynamic UK and Thai post offices create stamps and coins by UK and Thai artists of say Kent and Thai orchids, or music given The Beatles Sgt Pepper anniversary next year? UK music and arts fans might want their ears opened to Morlam rather just Penny Lane or Peter Blake.

Initial figures show another record year for UK tourism abroad: over 6M to Spain – surely that should be a template to boost the 1M UK tourist visits to Thailand say with a tourism simcard and promotional offers? Even expansion of the already-booming UK cruise ships Asian market from Honiara to Hanoi – Saga the major over-50’s travel group, based here in East Kent announcing an 8.5% increase in profits.

Almost nothing can stop the Great British Tourist pulling on their Union Jack shorts or bikini and heading for the sun. Thailand and ASEAN with UK partnerships should be aiming for a greater slice of that cake. Or, Japan's tourists to Kent sipping on a taste of home as Shepherd Neame the UK's oldest brewer (just 4 years shy of the Bank of England) barrels along with both Kentish ale and Asahi.

Khun Bandid is right to highlight the slow growth that afflicts both UK and Thailand and the need for new growth drivers so shouldn’t both nations change gears, and get motoring on increasing growth?

Tim Garbutt is director of Sincerity Advertising and PR agency, director of Surin Village School Charity with the first school built in Isaan and plans to build 1,000 schools each year, and is standing for MP in 2020 for better UK-Thailand and ASEAN activity. He likes Asahi but is not too sure about Oranjeboom.


Misc points:

* July Updates:

* Working on a misc issues: Magellan Anniversary - Spain and LatAm, Almeria Universities links and Kent-Thai orchids

* Also Solomon Islands cruise ships

* Benelux strategy: Panasonic and Phillips - DNA bathroom mirror

* One Essex Court and Inns fraud: Grabiner, Glick, Hollingworth, Leavor etc

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