1/07/2012 at 02:38 AM by Bangkokpost
Business leaders have questioned a prediction by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra that her government will achieve 15% export growth this year because of the eurozone crisis and problems at home. They said the ambitious figure was far higher than the Thai Chamber of Commerce's (TCC) projection of 10% export growth and the 12.8-13.8% predicted by the National Economic and Social Development Board. Prime Minister Yingluck yesterday said she was confident that exports would grow by 15% this year. Even though exports to the United States had yet to fully recover following the subprime mortgage crisis and new challenges from the eurozone crisis were approaching, she said the 15% target could be achieved with help from all sectors. Ms Yingluck was speaking at an export promotion workshop organised by the Commerce Ministry that drew about 200 representatives from the state and private sectors. Both sectors must seek new export markets while maintaining existing ones, she said, adding that they should also seek to benefit from the Asean Free Trade pact. She said she had instructed government agencies to remove obstacles facing exporters to help drive growth. Asked whether any economic ministers would be dismissed if they fail to mitigate the impact of the eurozone debt crisis on Thailand, Ms Yingluck said she would try to be sympathetic as it was not easy to deal with negative factors from outside the country. Exports in the first few months of this year contracted by 1.47%, but in May they grew by 7% as automotive and electronics industries recovered from last year's floods. The government is setting up six subcommittees to work on proposals for her administration's export promotion scheme, she said. The six panels should be formed within two weeks and will target tax restructuring to aid exports; set up measures to penetrate markets in European countries with strong economies; mitigate the impact of the eurozone crisis; promote the service sector; expand export markets in Asean and East Asian countries; and find new markets in the Bric countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) as well as in Latin America, South Africa and the Middle East. Private sector leaders at the workshop felt the 15% target was too high and doubted the government could achieve it. To do so, the export value must increase from US$18 billion (550 billion baht) to about $21 billion. This means exports would need to grow by 30% over the next six months. TCC chairman Phongsak Assakul said the chamber stood by its 10% projection because of the eurozone crisis and fierce competition in new markets. "The eurozone crisis is likely to create medium- to long-term impacts, so we hope the six subcommittees will quickly come up with concrete measures [to safeguard Thai exporters]," he said. Paiboon Ponsuwanna, chairman of the Thai National Shippers' Council, said based on the latest assessments, projected export growth could only be in single digits. There were signs of an export slowdown in the shipping business, he said. Mr Paiboon said whether the government could meet its target depended on its ability to eliminate obstacles in the export sector. Many problems had been around for a long time and were yet to be solved, he said. For example, a new logistics development committee has been delayed for over 15 years. Payungsak Chartsuthipol, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, said the 15% growth target would be a challenge for the government as it takes time to eradicate obstacles and boost trade. He said private firms needed to improve production techniques to offset the government's 300 baht minimum wage policy in 70 provinces. Deputy Prime Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said the six subcommittees would work fast to come up with proposals for the government. But he insisted there was no need for the government to implement urgent measures to deal with the eurozone impact at the moment.