Sunday, December 6, 2009

Retail law versions must be reconciled, say ministers

เข้าสภาฯImage by Keng Susumpow via Flickr

Economic ministers yesterday approved the draft retail and wholesale act in principle, but told the Commerce Ministry and related parties to patch up certain differences.

The meeting chaired by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva directed the ministry to work with the Thailand Trade Representative Office (TTR) and the Council of State to sort out differences between the draft prepared by the ministry and another one by the TTR and merge them into one proposal before submitting it for parliamentary debate.

Key differences between the two drafts involve a proposal to set up a committee to oversee and approve new retail outlet expansion, operating hours of so-called modern trade stores, and the establishment of a development fund to help small retailers.

The Commerce Ministry draft calls for two committees - central and provincial - while the TTR proposed to set up only a single central committee chaired by the permanent secretary for Commerce.

Proposed retail developments in Bangkok would need permission from a 15-member committee chaired by the commerce minister, while developments in the provinces would require approval from a 13-member committee chaired by the provincial governor, according to the Commerce Ministry draft, which passed through nine public hearings.

The retail law has been in the works for nearly five years. Small businesses maintain that better measures are needed to regulate the expansion of large chains, which threaten the livelihoods of thousands of mainly family-run shops.

They maintain that the existing urban zoning regulations overseen by the Interior Ministry's department of Town and Country Planning do not go far enough.

Putthipong Punnakan, a vice-minister to the Prime Minister's Office, said the Commerce Ministry was directed to address the differences and submit the proposal to economic ministers again next week.

Ministers yesterday also discussed the possible impact of the Dubai debt crisis and Vietnam's dong devaluation on Thailand.

Mr Putthipong said ministers saw the Dubai debt scare as unlikely to affect Thai economy, but admitted the devaluation of the Vietnamese currency would slightly affect Thai exports, particularly textiles, footwear, seafood, canned and finished food products and farm products such as rice and rubber.

According to report prepared by the National Economic and Social Development Board, there are few Thai investments in the troubled business hub of the United Arab Emirates.

Thai investments in Dubai are worth only about US$140 million, according to the report.
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