Favourable country ranking entails tougher job for leaders

The Nation/ANN - Thai people as a whole also have some work to do

Country rankings can sometimes be taken with a grain of salt, or so governments or nations that lose face often say. Positive ones, however, are always better with negative ones, and embattled Thailand can take heart from latest survey results coming out of the United States. For all that Thailand has been through, there are quite a few things to boast about thanks to a respected American rank-giver.

According to US News & World Report, which did a detailed and qualitative survey involving tens of thousands of people across the globe, Thailand took the number one spot for the second year in a row as the best country to start a business. Strong competition, however, is coming from a crop of both developed and developing neighbours. China has jumped up three places from last year to number two, whereas Indonesia and Vietnam broke into the Top Ten for the first time. 

The favourable rankings somehow reflect either high barriers of entry elsewhere, if not a total glut of business. Asia also has relatively low initial costs and more streamlined procedures to thank for the impressive rankings that are attractive to entrepreneurs. In 2014, more than a quarter of new business registrations occurred in East Asian and Pacific nations, according to the World Bank.

As for the “Best Countries” rankings, Thailand is in the 26th position, sandwiched by India (25th) and Russia (27th) and actually dropping from 21st place in 2016. Switzerland was the best country, followed by Canada and Germany.

The focus, though, should be on the “Best Country to start a business” category, which Thailand tops. There are a few things to consider, namely legal and digital infrastructures which require considerable improvement, national human resources and labour immigration. This ranking will undoubtedly add to the challenges and opportunities posed by the launching of the Asean Economic Community, meaning the Thai leaders’ task of striking a balance between foreign investment and the well-being of Thai citizens will get even harder.

Thailand’s closest rival in this category is China, followed by Malaysia, India and Indonesia respectively. Thailand’s favourable ranking was attributed largely to “low density” of new businesses, which gives room for hopeful entrepreneurs. Competition among the countries has revolved around streamlined initial costs and registration processes, with Malaysia getting specific mention of its use of digital technology for company registration.

One thing is certain: Thailand’s job landscape will feature more foreign players, both in the executive and labour segments. The country needs to be more efficient and transparent and weed out corruption that has plagued related processes. The use of technology has to be facilitated and promoted by the government, which also has to ensure that efforts to lure outside financial, management and labour resources do not hamper skill developments of Thai citizens.

Thailand’s political divide has interrupted economic progress, making any global economic downturn worse than normal. Tourism, for example, has taken several hard hits over the years due to violence spawned by power plays and ideological conflicts. There are few signs the situation will remarkably improve, but everyone concerned should keep in mind how ordinary lives have been disrupted by politics.

On a significant category, the quality of life, Thailand is ranked 29th, flanked by Malaysia on top and India underneath. Canada tops this category, followed by Sweden and Denmark, respectively. We may never really know if Thailand’s ranking would have been better and by how much had it not been for the chronic, sometimes violent political trouble. What we do know is this particular ranking is the responsibility of all Thai citizens, not just an individual.