I have just attended the 3rd International Conference on Skill Development and Technological Innovation for Economic Growth organized by the Institute for Management Studies, Ghaziabad. I was the chief guest and gave an address in the opening session on connections between India and ASEAN. My conference paper was:
Special Economic Zones and Industrial Policy in Thailand
Whether under military or democratic rule, successive governments in Thailand have consistently used industrial policy to try to improve economic performance and enhance economic development. Previously, industrial estates were used as an aspect of entering and then passing through the Factory Asia paradigm. However, as Thailand now seeks to exit the Middle Income Trap, industrial estates are to be supplemented by special economic zones (SEZs), which are to be located in border provinces to take advantage of cross-border complementarities with neighbouring Myanmar, Lao PDR, Cambodia and Malaysia. Industrial policy, which remains a controversial subject, involves a range of different activities and requires appropriate coordination and evaluation of results. In the Thai context, this has involved a number of different ministries and other government agencies and there have been some overlaps of responsibility and inefficiencies caused as a result. This paper explores the historical experience of industrial policy in Thailand with a view to analyzing the role of SEZs within current and future policy. The incoherent policy platform currently being promulgated will be considered and recommendations made for a more rational set of policies and means of governance for the future.
Keywords: industrial estates, industrial policy, middle income trap, special economic zones, Thailand