The time is ripe to end economic protectionism

Rather amusingly, in recent weeks, I have found myself assaulted by a plague of illogic coming from the protected capitalists that dominate Thailand’s economic landscape.

They allege, with an almost palpable sense of fear, that the emerging “Move Forward” initiative is a looming anti-capitalist specter that could spell a bleak future for the local stock market.

It’s as if they have conveniently chosen to forget the dark underbelly of Siamese capitalism: the monopolies, the oligopolies, and the noxious tentacles of crony capitalism that have constricted our markets for far too long.

Perhaps, instead of clinging to outdated notions of protectionism, Thailand should consider the benefits of liberalizing industries, such as the alcohol sector. Instead of our palettes being offended by the taste of the same six beers, imagine a world dominated by competing microbrews building value in brands and the local economy. By allowing more widespread competition and fostering an environment of value creation, the nation may experience a renaissance of entrepreneurialism.

As the great capitalist Pon Van Compernolle argues, picture a scenario where the most competitive and competent Thai entrepreneurs can engage in “fair competition, unburdened by the shackles of concessionary licenses awarded decades ago.”

Now, I must confess that what I am about to say may not sit well with the patriotic among you, but it’s an uncomfortable truth worth reckoning with. Thailand’s economic performance since the 1980s owes much to the influx of foreign investment and the transfer of knowledge from abroad. Yet, in recent years, the nation has adopted a regressive approach, stifling foreign direct investment (FDI) and closing the doors to fresh ideas. As a consequence, the innovative spirit that once thrived has been conspicuously absent. I would argue that the previous government’s prosecution of the independent spirit and the youth has even sent some of our brightest minds abroad.

No one will argue that the last decade has been less than inspiring. One might even go as far as to claim that it has been a barren wasteland, devoid of any new ideas.

The time is ripe for Thailand to rekindle its entrepreneurial spirit, to fling its doors open, and to once again welcome the fresh winds of foreign investment and global collaboration.

Let the fear of change be nothing but a mere specter, a phantom that dissipates in the face of rational thought. Let us not allow this fear to dictate our future.

Let us Move Forward.


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