15 Feb
Point of View

The “Point of View” series presents a range of perspectives from the CCES network. This month Associate Professor Rob Preece* writes about his time in Thailand. 

I have now just moved past my 10 year anniversary of living and working in Bangkok, Thailand, working as both the CCES regional representative for South East Asia, and as its Course Director for Excise Studies.  In that time I have been very fortunate to have met and worked with some fabulous people and on some very interesting projects, including building a friendship with many of the staff at the Thai Excise Department which will last a lifetime.

As you would imagine in 10 years many things have changed, and each of these changes have added to the appeal of ex-patriot life – we Westerners can now find a good cup of coffee!  Some things have not changed however, and this is equally important such as taste of Thai food, haggling for a good bargain in the markets, and the hospitality of so many people to visitors to Thailand.  Having said that, one thing that has not changed, and needs to, is the traffic!

To say Thailand has not seen any challenges in the last 10 years would be wrong.  Floods, street protests, and political rallies have all sadly seen lives lost and the economy take a pause.  However, equally remarkable is the ability of the Thai people to bounce back from these challenges and quickly recover.

Thailand is part of ASEAN, which itself is under-going a period of closer economic ties and has just witnessed the commencement of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).  Thailand is taking a leadership role in many aspects of the AEC which will be important if ASEAN is to reap the benefits of the new community, and these benefits trickle down to the less developed members.

The formation of the AEC has become a personal interest to me, especially in my area of expertise excise taxation which is now shaping up to be a major issue to explore and to start a discussion on better coordinating regional policies over such taxes, so much so that this aspect has become my Thesis as I undertake research towards my PhD.  To be effective, the AEC needs to share the new opportunities it creates for key industries, for example, why shouldn’t auto part makers set up in low cost ASEAN member countries, moving parts to more developed members with established assembly lines and then manufacturers be able to sell these cars at the best price across all 10 member countries, using this strong domestic base to be able to then market to rest of the world?  This outcome and many others can only be achieved by coordinating excise policies.

Assisting in my research is an incredible network of friends from most of the Ministries of Finance across the region, and certainly an aspect of my interaction with these policy makers is how they are dedicated to improving their capacity to reform and develop fiscal policy.  Using this network I am now trying to increase the contact between policy makers, putting those still building their expertise with those are further progressed – perhaps this will also help with the regions coordination issues?

So, I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunity to live in work in both a country and a region that are moving forward and allowing me to contribute what I can to help with that progress.

*A/Prof Rob Preece is the Course Director of Excise Studies at CCES, Charles Sturt University and is based with his family in Bangkok, Thailand.