Thailand. Move to boost rural economies

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Thapana Sirivadhanabhakdi, chief executive and president of Thai Beverage Plc (ThaiBev), is keen on strong cooperation between all stakeholders from the government and the private sectors to drive rural economic development.

Thapana’s mission is to promote higher incomes and better living conditions for people in rural communities, he said

He said that the private sector would help farmers and small business entrepreneurs in rural areas through enhanced production and management, as well as marketing know-how and communication methods to build awareness.

“It makes the cogwheels roll and move on,” he said.

“Meanwhile, the government will be responsible for granting and executing the policies that are set to promote better incomes and living conditions in the rural economy, as well as related stimulus measures.”

Thapana, who leads one of the 12 public-private steering committees under the Pracha Rath project, said that his committee’s mission was to increase the income of the rural communities throughout the Kingdom. As a result, people will be happier based on having better living conditions, he said.

“To achieve our mission, we will focus on enhancing the development of three strategic pillars, which are agriculture, product processing by small and medium-sized entrepreneurs, and community tourism,” said Thapana, adding that the aim is to develop farmers and micro entrepreneurs to become SMEs.

Thapana said that the launch of the social enterprise endeavour would be the nucleus for mobilising cooperation between the government and private sectors to develop the rural economy.

He said that the social enterprises would work as legal business entities but not for the benefit of their shareholders, with all profits returned to the community.

He said that enterprises would be enhanced by good governance and would operate without government subsidies or donations from charities.

The first social enterprise, Pracharath Rak Samakkee Phuket, was launched last week with Bt5 million in primary investment capital, raised from a grant of 5,000 shares for Bt1,000 each.

ThaiBev has allocated Bt1 million as a seeding fund for the company and more than Bt1 million has been raised by local businesses.

Thapana said that the social enterprises would have executive boards made up of members of the government and private sector, and each would have a managing director who was a well-known person working in civil society in the respective provinces.

He said the enterprises would have advisory boards made up of representatives from relevant ministries and government agencies, including the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, the Ministry of Commerce, and the Prime Minister’s Office.

“Phuket has a high level of readiness. The province is currently a world [tourism] destination and has strong potential for further development both in community and global levels,” said Thapana.

He added that for Phuket four agricultural products would be promoted – pineapple, lobster, goat milk, and organic vegetables.

Batik would be focused on as a strategic value-added product, with branding done under the product-processing sector. For community tourism, the province would develop a year-round tourism calendar.

In addition to Phuket, he said the committee would set up social enterprises in four other provinces in the first phase, which would run until the end of this month. They are at Phetchaburi, Udon Thani, Chiang Mai and Buri Ram.

They will be the first strategic provinces and cover the different regions of the Kingdom. The selection of strategic provinces is based on the readiness of local business communities including their infrastructure.

Thapana said that all 18 strategic provinces, representing the 76 provinces of Thailand (excluding Bangkok), will be selected by the end of this year for the setting up of local social enterprises, with one holding company in charge of the transfer of overall policies and business visions.

“The success factor of rural economic development will be not only from the perfect combination between the government sector and major private companies, but also small and micro community enterprises,” said Thapana.

“I myself cannot set any medium or long-term target for the social enterprises on what they will be in the future. Those social enterprises do not belong to me but to all small and micro enterprises in the community.”