Thailand to grow BCG economy for better gains in key sectors

26, May. 2021

Thailand’s strategic areas for the BCG growth model are based on its economic foundation and strengths in food and agriculture; medical and wellness; energy, material, biochemicals; tourism and creative economy. (Photo: Thailand Government)
Thailand’s strategic areas for the BCG growth model are based on its economic foundation and strengths in food and agriculture; medical and wellness; energy, material, biochemicals; tourism and creative economy. (Photo: Thailand Government)

BANGKOK, NNA - Thailand is counting on a strategic development of a bio-circular-green economy (BCG) supported by advancements in the food, medical, energy and tourism sectors for sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that has devastated the country as much as the world economy.

The kingdom has launched a policy based on the BCG model to encourage government bodies, businesses and people to use natural assets more efficiently for sustainable growth in the four strategic areas.

The move will benefit 17 million people working in sectors such as food and agriculture; medical and wellness; energy, material and biochemicals; tourism and the creative economy.

By focusing on these areas, Thailand hopes to achieve comprehensive security encompassing food, health, energy, employment, sustainable natural resources and the environment, said the foreign affairs ministry in a press statement last week.

The implementations under the BCG model will see the participation of the government, private sector, academia and society.

Thailand hopes such collective efforts will put the country on track to rebuilding "a healthier, greener and more inclusive economy as the pandemic subsides," said its foreign affairs ministry in a press statement last week.

Efforts to promote the BCG model at the policy level have been underway since last October with the establishment of two BCG committees.

These are the BCG policy board of directors, chaired by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha; and the BCG model implementation committee, chaired by Anek Laothamatas, the minister of higher education, science, research and innovation. The BCG initiative was subsequently adopted as part of Thailand's national agenda in January this year.

Kitipong Promwong, president of the office of national higher education, science, research and innovation policy council, sees each area of the BCG operating like a pyramid of a supply chain.

Production employing basic know-how involving the largest group of producers forms the base of the pyramid, while the higher levels towards the apex require more sophisticated technology

The goal is to enable the base to move up the pyramid by adding value to their products. For example, in the medical and wellness sector, the base of the pyramid is traditional knowledge of herbs, while the top of the chain is cutting-edge medicine that is a result of research and technology.

"Upgrading the four areas of BCG will benefit around 17 million people working in these sectors," said the foreign affairs ministry.

Guided by the BCG model, the country seeks to capitalize on its biodiversity throughout the supply chain, by strengthening the capacity of local communities and optimizing the use of new technologies.

Meanwhile, science agencies are transforming the manufacturing and services sectors with modern scientific methods and technology, as well as home-grown innovations.

"While these concepts have been present in Thailand for some time, it is their combined implementation in a synergised manner that is novel." said the foreign affairs ministry.

However, it is quick to add that the BCG model builds on the principles established by late King Bhumibol Adulyadej who advanced the 'sufficiency economy philosophy' in communities across the country.

Thailand considers agriculture as a fundamental component in the BCG model, particularly in the area of bioeconomy.

The world's Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development defines bioeconomy as "the economic activities relating to the invention, development, production and use of biological products and processes."

As modern biotechnology is applied to boost agricultural and industrial productivity, it also reduces the negative impact on public health. Thailand plans to achieve this by supporting innovative agricultural products and methods to enhance productivity.

According to Professor Dr. Iris Lewandowski, an expert in the field, agriculture is a subset of a bioeconomy, which in turn is a subset of a green economy that is low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive. In sustaining a green economy, the aim is to keep products circulating in use for as long as possible.

This is why a circular economy is the crucial link between a bioeconomy and a green economy. It focuses on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.

"Put together, the BCG model would improve the manufacturing and use of products, while creating value at all levels of the production and consumption process, where everything can be used, and nothing goes to waste," said the foreign affairs ministry.

One good example is the Thai Eastern Industrial Zone in Chonburi province. Set up in October 2020, it is the first bio-industrial zone there that can generate an annual economic value of over $3.2 billion.

Part of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) straddling three provinces, the zone has been helping farmers develop quality products to feed the bio industry while creating jobs with stable incomes for 8,000 locals in the past few years.

The EEC supports industries that operate in line with BCG guidelines, such as those producing food for the future, medicine, agriculture and biotechnology.

BCG investments in the EEC will enjoy better benefits in regulations revised in their favor, said the foreign ministry.

For instance, industrial waste can be transported directly to processing plants across provinces to minimize environmental impact on local lands.

Don Pramudwinai, deputy prime minister and the minister of foreign affairs, said the BCG economy, which aims to maintain balance between man and nature, can reduce the risk of disruption when there are natural disasters, or even pandemics like the COVID-19 menace.

He believes the BCG model can reduce risks of infectious diseases from humans, plants and animals, as well as mitigate climate change.

Thailand has affirmed its commitment to such causes and championed them on the international stage. During Thailand's chairmanship of ASEAN economic block in 2019, Southeast Asian countries adopted the Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris to promote the sustainable use of the marine environment.

This aligns with Thailand's policy to reduce and recycle more plastic. In addition, the country is committed to reducing food waste from 30 percent to 10 percent by 2030.

Thailand also intends to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 – 25 percent by 2030 as it transforms into a low-carbon society.

Thailand is encouraging international partners to exchange technological and scientific resources to help activate the BCG model for post COVID-19 recovery, said the foreign affairs ministry.

It said, "Thailand advocates joint efforts to ensure that the world's natural assets continue to yield resources and environmental services for future generations. This will certainly be included in the agendas when Thailand chairs BIMSTEC in 2021 - 2022 and assumes the role of APEC Host Economy next year."