Optimism of Thailand Mid-Market Leaders Suggests Potential Underestimation of Challenges Ahead: International Business Report, Q1 2024

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Bangkok, Thailand, April 2024 — The Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) for Q1 2024 unveils a strikingly optimistic outlook among Thailand's mid-market business leaders, juxtaposed with the looming challenges that will shape the nation's economic future. With a Business Health Index score of 13.5, Thailand outperforms its ASEAN, Asia-Pacific, and global counterparts, signalling a robust confidence that may overshadow critical issues such as demographic changes, skills shortages, and the necessity for digital advancement.

A Critical Perspective on Business Sentiment

Ian Pascoe, CEO & Managing Partner, offers his view: "The surge in business sentiment does not fully account for the intricate challenges that lie ahead. It's vital that the optimism of business leaders does not mask the impending demographic and technological transitions that are bound to reshape Thailand’s economic landscape. Business leaders must plan strategically to proactively address these shifts. Otherwise, this sense of bullishness will not continue for long."

Demographic and Skill Gaps: A Clarion Call for Action

The IBR shows that 51% of Thai businesses are looking to expand their workforce, an intention that must be matched with substantial investment in enhancing workforce skills, currently planned by only 44% of business leaders. This disparity points to a potential underestimation of the challenges posed by an ageing population and the evolving skill requirements in a digital economy, as we have discussed at length elsewhere. 

Technological Investment: A Vital Step for Competitive Edge

With 60% of Thai businesses intending to heighten technology investments, Thailand trails behind its regional and global peers, underscoring an urgent call to intensify digital transformation efforts to stay competitive internationally.

Economic Outlook and Investment Trends

The report presents a dual perspective: positive business condition improvements contrast with reduced optimism due to external uncertainties, including the regional economic climate influenced by China. Increased investment intentions, particularly in tourism, signify a strategic move toward sectoral recovery post-Covid-19.

Cybersecurity and ESG Considerations

Emerging areas like cybersecurity and ESG compliance are gaining prominence. The report adds a new dimension, revealing that only a fraction of Thai businesses perceive cybersecurity as a major constraint, highlighting a potential gap in risk awareness and preparedness. Additionally, the readiness to adapt to evolving ESG regulations suggests an optimistic yet possibly overconfident stance among Thai businesses.

About the IBR 

The Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR), initiated in 1992, offers a comprehensive look into the sentiments of mid-market businesses globally. It aggregates the perspectives of approximately 3,823 C-suite executives across 31 economies, providing insights through quarterly surveys and interviews conducted in various languages. The Q1 2024 data stems from interactions with CEOs, managing directors, and other senior executives across diverse industry sectors, focusing on the period from January to March 2024. In partnership with Oxford Economics, the IBR utilises a unique index to gauge mid-market health, developed through rigorous analysis, model development, and correlation testing with macroeconomic indicators.