Thailand’s economy has been in a downturn for quite some time as a result of world economic slowdown and the country’s political problem. Economy in Thailand started to pick up moderately after the decline in growth rate in 2013 to touch the rate of 3.0-3.5% in 2016. It is expected that the country’s GDP will increase by another 5% in 2017.
The government has launched its ‘Thailand 4.0’ economic expansion plan by focusing mainly on adding value into its industries through the so-called ‘Transforming towards value-based economy’ campaign. The idea is to transform the industries from ‘putting much investment with a few returns’ to ‘putting less investment with a lot more results’. This will enable the country to develop itself to be a production hub of value based products, rather than producing only commodity goods. This requires the country to put emphasis on promoting technology, focusing on creating and being more innovative.
The process involves changes in four major areas. They are:
1. Changing from traditional farming to ‘smart farming’, where the farmers improve their management by adopting technology which will transform the farmers to be entrepreneurs
2. Changing traditional SMEs or SMEs that the government will always have to support or subsidize to ‘smart enterprises’ with more efficient ways of doing business
3. Changing from traditional service providers to high value added services
4. Changing from unskilled labours to knowledgeable workers and high skilled labours
As for steel industry’s response to the new industry programme in Thailand, there will be changes for the usage of steel in all applications. New steel materials will be developed, such as using alloy steel, new designs for new applications, new way of fabrications, using steel powder for 3-D printing, using computer-aided design and testing for the development of steel products. This will also include the more advanced production processes and customization. Energy savings for better environment must also be incorporated into the plan.
If this is successful, we will see new steel structure for buildings in Thailand. The government expects to see quick assembly and disassembly of structures in the future, by developing the construction sector to use more modular steel frame buildings. As for the automotive sector, light steel frame will be adopted in order to meet the needs for energy saving vehicles in the future. The government is also expecting to see more developments in vessels and containers industry and parts for aviation industry. Therefore, steel industry development in the country will also move forward in this direction in the future.
Extracted from the Keynote Speech by Mr. Chen Namchaisiri, Chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, at 2016 ASEAN Iron and Steel Sustainability Forum