One of Thailand’s house committee plans to urge the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA), Electronics Transactions Development Agency (ETDA), and the National Innovation Agency (NIA) to grant assistance to local startups; many of which are struggling in the face of foreign competition.

The three agencies have their work cut out for them as they will need to develop strategies that can help strengthen local startups in an incredibly competitive market, said Pakornwut Udompipatskul, vice-chairman of the Committee on Communications, Telecommunications and Digital Economy and Society.

The Startup Act which was designed to help the local businesses has yet to be implemented as it has been under consideration by the Council of State for two years.

“Our committee plans to call on the agencies to support startups, as they are important engines driving the country towards Thailand 4.0,” Mr Pakornwut said.

These remarks came after the Thailand Tech Startup Association brought awareness to the committee that new policies were desperately needed to enhance the robustness of local startups.

One of the association’s proposals concerns the Indonesia model, under which data sovereignty and fair tax collection from startups are assured. For example, only local startups would be granted access to certain government data such as transportation.

“All major unicorns (valued at over US$1 billion) from Indonesia are local startups, such as Tokopedia and GoJek,” said Panachit Kittipanya-ngam, president of the association. He also made note of the fact that Thailand has yet to have any homegrown unicorns of their own; with major players in the startup market being foreign operators such as e-commerce and ride-hailing services.

Accordingly, important data such as spending behaviour is collected and owned by foreign operators.

Policymakers should adopt data sovereignty and make data subject to laws and governance structures within the nation, Mr Panachit said; adding that fair tax measures were also direly needed.

Mr Panachit also suggested that if the government is unable to collect VAT from foreign operator’s services, then local operators should be subjected to lower taxes in order to create a fairer and more competitive environment.

Additionally, also suggested that Thailand’s focus should shift from inviting major global players to invest in Thailand, to increasing the promotion of local players via new policies to help boost revenue.

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