When the first set of swanky Daewoo Ceilo sedan taxis were spotted on Kathmandu roads, Bangkok was seeing its inaugural batch of air-conditioned taxi sedans. More than 10 years later, while the Thai capital graduated to 7 series BMWs parked graciously at the airports, we slipped to rattling Marutis. (Let us not even talk about the ready-to-scrap-vintages called airport limousines). We do not need to explain again how the national carriers of Nepal and Thailand started at the same time and how their flight paths have diverged since then. (Economic Sense #38)
Like India, Thailand today has a feeling of charged energy, a can-do attitude. The biggest change noted by this Beed is that more and more young Thais are taking reading seriously. This explains the mushrooming of bookstores on the streets, the expansion of existing store chains and the growing circulation of newspapers and magazines. Global publishers are churning out more titles weekly in Thai. This surely should be a big lesson for reading-averse hearsay-dependent Nepalis. While we have caught on to partying and fashion, reading which could open up new vistas for our youth, has been neglected. The Thais have got it right.
Thailand has also spent heavily on infrastructure such as mass transit, making it a competitive production hub. Global companies want to be based there because supply chain costs are lower. Condominiums are mushrooming as the government has permitted non-Thais to own property. Here is another lesson for Nepal: allowing foreigners to buy property in designated areas would not only provide us with an expatriate population that would consume locally but also lots of job and investment opportunities for Nepalis.
We should always remember that only quality will deliver in the long run. Thais have started asking for better products at competitive prices. Global retail chains like Tesco and Carrefour are already there and US-based chains like Toys 'R' Us will open soon. Local Thai food and retail chains have also emerged. The stock exchange has a business development wing that seeks local businesses that might their shares, focusing on unlocking the potential of closely held private companies and giving the public a chance to participate in the country's growth.
Of course, the fact that Thailand is not a full-fledged democracy means its potential cannot be unleashed to the fullest. Thais understand that economic growth is dependent on economic freedom itself dependent on political freedom but they are unsure how to bell the cat. Therefore, pet projects like OTOP (One Tambon One Product) still go ahead for political reasons not economic ones. The bad news about OTOP for our business and political leaders who believed it was a wonderful thing to emulate is that it has been hyped but unsuccessful. Another lesson to learn: let us emulate good practices only.