Dr. Narongchai Akrasanee is Chairman of Khon Kaen University Council, former Minister of Energy, former Minister of Commerce and an economist who plays an important role on the development of Thai economy. His prediction on what will happen in the next 1-2 year is that people will have a “new feeling” in living their lives. And this feeling will affect every level of the economic chain in both Thai and global societies.
“One thing that can be clearly seen right now is Digital Transformation. It happens quickly and proves that technology can help people live quite conveniently amid the pandemic. On the other hand, even though the technological advancements in healthcare may have given many people confidence that “Whatever comes up, we’ll be ok”, but then Covid-19 happened. At first, I believed that we would be fine, but it broke out faster than everyone expected and it’s still uncertain if we can handle it with vaccines. What will happen during this time is that people will develop a new feeling regarding “human proximity”. Since human is a social animal, we have a psychological tendency to be near one another and that leads to village society and urban society. But due to this current situation, we must be more cautious and that will change human behaviour. As a result, a new way of living will be developed regarding human proximity, both in terms of working and living, that will slow down urban development process.
“Thai economy focuses on service sector. Service sector involves people and people must be near one another. That doesn’t align with the new way of living. Therefore, there is less opportunity to gain from our service or tourism sectors. We used to have a monthly average of 3 million tourists and that will put us in a difficult position. Let’s analyse from the three major economic sectors. We can’t take the lead in the industrial sector today. As for the service sector, even though it has been the country’s main driving economic force, now we have to adapt. Therefore, our chance may lie in the agricultural sector. Compared to other countries, we have competitive advantages on agricultural and food sectors. If we shift the focus into the agricultural sector, growth can be stimulated by effective water management system. And I hope that we’ll use this crisis as a chance to develop a good irrigation system.
“The new opportunity is on healthcare or wellness businesses which may open the door for our service sector. Before, Thailand emphasized on recreational tourism. Now we may shift to health tourism more. Actually, many hotels have been transformed into field hospitals for Thais who come back from abroad to stay during quarantine period. That may be the next trend for us. Even though people may be afraid to travel or to be near one another in the future, if we go in the healthcare direction, we can build up more confidence.”
Interview Date : 24 April 2020
Interview : Siri-On Rhimpranee | Edit : Natcha Tawannachote | Image : Surachet Soparattanadilok