Thailand: Southeast Asia’s Kingdom of Wonder
15 August, 2018
Ratchadawan Loetsilathong, Acting President, Thailand Privilege Card Company
Thailand is one of the most popular destinations to travel to at the moment, with the country enjoying continued favor among both pleasure and business travelers. Picturesque mountain scenery, crystalline seas and pristine beaches, spectacular temples, and several World Heritage Sites are not the only wonders to be found in the slice of paradise that is Thailand, as the country also offers a buffet of benefits for the more business-minded. Unbeknownst to many, Thailand’s business-ready and investment-friendly climate is propelling the Kingdom of Wonder into investor-haven territory.
Situated in the heart of Southeast Asia, the Land of Smiles — as Thailand is affectionately known — has been the region’s trade and business hub since 1700; Ayutthaya, which was the capital city during that period, was known as the Venice of the East. Today, Thailand continues to enjoy this strategic location, which helps the country serve as a gateway to some of the world’s fastest-growing markets, and Bangkok, the bustling and beautiful capital city, is just a short flight away from key destinations such as Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam. As one of the world’s leading travel destinations, manufacturers of hard drives, and exporters of rice, automobiles, electronics, healthcare, textiles, and jewelry, Thailand possesses a unique competitiveness and offers an alluring environment for investment.
Apart from enjoying its abundance of resources and a skilled and cost-effective workforce, foreign investors can also enjoy privileged advantages thanks to the country’s agreements with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Thailand is a founding member. Examples of these agreements include the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement, the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services, and the Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations between Thailand and the US. According to the World Bank, Thailand has made exceptional gains with respect to social and economic development, progressing to an upper-income country in less than a generation and moving towards meeting the globally significant UN Sustainable Development Goals. Thailand’s economy grew by 3.9% in 2017, which is its best growth performance since 2012, and growth is expected to reach 4.1% in 2018. It comes as no surprise then that Thailand was ranked the 32nd most competitive nation in the world (of 137 countries) in the 2017–2018 edition of the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report.
On Bloomberg’s Misery Index 2018 report, Thailand was ranked the least miserable country out of 66 countries for the fourth consecutive year. Investment wonders will not soon cease in Thailand as the country — which boasts a USD 406.8 billion GDP, 68.9 million population, and USD 16,885 GDP per capita — was ranked 8th of the top 10 Best Countries to Invest in 2018. The ranking is the result of a study conducted by global marketing and communications firm BAV Group in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. The ranking is also an indication that Thailand’s 20-year National Economic Strategy
(2017–2036) is moving the country in the right direction.
With its goal to achieve the status as one of the most preferred investment destinations in Asia, the Thai government has launched a number of mega infrastructure projects, which include a highspeed rail venture with China, airport upgrades, and mass transit lines in Bangkok and the Eastern Economic Corridor. Legal and regulatory reforms are another of the government’s focal points as the country works to prepare for technology investment in the 4.0 era and improve the ease of doing business in Thailand. The amended Investment Promotion Act B.E. 2560 (2017) is the latest legislation to grant foreign investors exemption of import duties. Previously, this was limited to materials used for manufacturing for re-exportation; however, it now includes materials imported for domestic use, particularly those for research and development activities. Foreign investments in certain industries that involve new and advanced technology and bring in development and innovation are strongly encouraged by the Thai government.
The results of these efforts are beginning to show. According to the World Bank’s 2018 Ease of Doing Business ranking, Thailand is among the top three investment destinations in ASEAN, with the esteemed institution reporting that it takes only about five days to start a business in Thailand. The Kingdom of Smiles also offers foreign investors and their families privileged facilitations through the issuance of a renewable, five-year, multiple entry Thai residence visa. To qualify, foreign investors are required to become a member of Thailand Elite, the first program of its kind worldwide developed by the Thailand Privilege Card Company Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, under the Royal Thai Government. Through the offering, Thailand Elite members can enjoy visits of ‘regular’ duration, i.e. 90 days, to visits as long as one year. Exclusively, members can stay in the country for an unlimited period, just as any Thai citizen, as the one-year stay extension can be renewed annually without the usual need to cross the border.
Thailand Elite’s residence program is also the only one of its kind to offer members the most premium of VIP services and facilitations, such as an expedited passport control process, complimentary limousine transfers, personalized support services for contacting Thai government and business agencies, privileges at luxury hotels, spas, golf courses, and international hospitals throughout Thailand, and a multilingual 24- hour member contact center. While seven packages designed to meet applicants’ needs and desires are available, the following three are currently the most popular:
- Elite Ultimate Privilege: Offers a 20-year residence visa. The once-off fee is approximately USD 60,000 with an annual fee of approximately USD 600. The package includes VIP assistant services, government concierge services, and elite lifestyle services.
- Elite Privilege Access: Is designed for family applications and offers a 10-year residence visa for each family member. The once-off fee is approximately USD 30,000 for the main applicant and USD 22,500 for each dependant. There are no annual fees or age restrictions.
- Elite Easy Access: Offers a five-year residence visa.The once-off fee is approximately USD 15,000 and there are no annual fees or age restrictions. This option can also be upgraded to a higher-tier package.
All in all, Thailand is doing a remarkable job of positioning itself as the ‘next best option’ for global citizens looking to improve their quality of life and international businesses seeking to optimize their investment potential.