Commercial properties facing the main roads are almost as expensive as the ones you can get in greater Bangkok. Could this underdeveloped province in Thailand on the verge of experiencing a huge boon?
The province we are referring to is Roi Et, a province in north-east Thailand. The city, for the most part seems very well planned with wide lanes, and traffic lights with timer count. Can this be an early precursor to signal that Thailand is ready to be an agricultural powerhouse?
Not very commercially driven
What exactly are the common business activities in Roi Et? In general, communities are close-knit, and work on agricultural related industries. Mostly self-employed, these farmers toil on their own land – planting rice, fruit trees and vegetables. Farmland is generally cheap – for purchase or rent, but that is because most landowners do not see the return on investment even if they plant their own crops to sell, due to depressed commodity prices.
What is more, the use of technology to solve problems such as flooding of farmland, or breeding of fishes are few and far in between. The general mindset revolves around personal consumption, and less of commercialisation.
The major drivers for the local economy
Interestingly, financing businesses are doing relatively well, alongside manufacturers of fertilizers, amongst others. Gas stations still present itself as stable business, partly due to the low cost of land and labor. While the typical preferred mode of transport would be by motorbike, families still like to keep at least a vehicle (usually is a pickup truck). Though the typical wage earner makes about 9,000 Thai Baht (287 US Dollars), they typically do not shy away from taking a loan if they can.
Government employees are also a major contributor to the local economy – with their stable income. They are usually the preferred customers of banks, and easily qualify for long term (usually ultra low interest) loans. A government employee who earns say below 15,000 Thai Baht (478 US Dollars) can easily get loan to buy a decent Japanese-branded car, and a landed property.
Talents have left to bigger cities
In general, there is not a huge expat community in Roi Et (as with the case for most provinces outside of Bangkok, except places such as Chiang Mai, or Phuket, to name a couple). These expats happen to be living here with their wives who are from here. As should be clear by now, there are not many job opportunities here for foreigners, as compared to Bangkok.
While there are universities here, in general English as a medium of communication is not really used. The draw of higher salaries in Bangkok has driven many young people away, leaving only – old people, children, and probably, only farmers or small business owners.
Roi Et is not the only province considered “underdeveloped”. Our findings have led to the conclusion that the only way such provinces (and there are many in Thailand) can develop themselves is to attract the right talents. While the government has been known to be very supportive, government still lacks the ability to attract talents, and this will be the main hurdle.
We acknowledge the fact that foreign talents cannot be imported due to the laws in place, limiting agricultural industry to Thais. It may not be the main problem, but when Thais themselves shun away jobs in the construction and agricultural sector, in favor of working in a cushy office job – who else is left to do the work?
What we know is this: the jobs that could be created in what we consider “underdeveloped” areas of Thailand could be exponential, if capital and talents are matched. Perhaps deeper thought should be taken, to revolutionise Thailand’s agricultural industry (which until now has been dominated only by a few big companies), so the industry can innovate and bring more growth and opportunities to the country.
Thanks for reading The Low Down, insight and inside knowledge from the team at Momentum Works. If you’d like to get in touch with us about any issues discussed in our blog, please drop us an email at [email protected] and let us know how we can help.