The measure was part of proposals made by Thailand ‘s largest retail conglomerate, Central Retail Corporation (CRC), along with with major suppliers who are seeking government support for retail and related industries.
The priority issues, they say, are raising the income of Thais, especially in the provinces; promoting exports, especially of Thai brands encouraging tourism; and reduction or elimination of import taxes, especially duties on luxury items.
The proposals were put before Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who chaired the CEO forum “Riding the Storm – A Business and Government Dialogue”, held yesterday by CRC for its 500 major suppliers.
An internal survey conducted among CRC’s suppliers showed that about 71 per cent of Thai brands were interested in exploring new export markets. They are deeply concerned about the domestic economic situation, consumer confidence, and the expansion of the local retail sector. Other concerns are political stability, the moribund tourism picture, and the global economy.
Tos Chirathivat, CEO of CRC, said the government should cut import tax on luxury products from its current 30 per cent to zero. The measure would draw foreign tourists, particularly from Asia, he said, and promote Thailand as a shopping destination, finally making it more competitive with Singapore and Hong Kong.
“The elimination of import duty is the easiest way the government can promote local tourism and related industries such as transportation, entertainment and restaurants. It would give the most benefit to the country,” said Tos.
He said the government should also raise incomes, especially in the provinces, by decentralizing plans for economic development, a concept that successive Phuket provincial governments have been pushing in Bangkok for decades. Scores of local advocates of the idea cite the extreme importance of tourism to Thailand, and the need for central government budget allocations to Phuket that reflect both the island’s massive economic contribution to the Kingdom and its potential for further development.
Tos says that CRC currently serves about 5 million regular customers plus another 4 million transient ones, accounting for 14 per cent of the Thai population. The group employs 20,000 staff and supports an additional 20,500 sales personnel employed by its suppliers.
— Nation & Gazette Reporters
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