Executive Vice President, Global Operations, Seagate Technology.
2017-2018 AMCHAM Board President
Dear AMCHAM Members,
It is my honor to be elected by the Board for a second term again in 2018. I look forward to representing all of you during what is sure to be a bittersweet year as we bid farewell to Judy Benn, who has tirelessly led this organization as Executive Director for the past 17 years. I want to extend my deepest appreciation to her for all she has done for the Chamber over the years.
Judy is leaving the Chamber in a strong financial position, and her successor will take over leadership of an association that is on firm footing. But rather than coasting through the end of her tenure, she is actively taking on some rather substantial projects in order to chart an even more promising course for the Chamber.
The Board of Governors met at the end of January for a strategic planning session to discuss the Chamber’s course for 2018 and beyond. While the Chamber’s three main areas of focus remain unchanged – advocacy, membership services, and community engagement – the Board agreed to explore a number of ways to enhance the Chamber’s offerings. Several Board members have been tasked with investigating new initiatives like establishing advisory services for startups, improving our communications, and committee-sponsored networking events. You’ll be hearing more about the results later in the year.
Our Director of Government Affairs and Public Policy, H.E. retired Ambassador Tomwit Jarnson, has now been with the Chamber for more than a year and has been instrumental in increasing our engagement with the Royal Thai Government. Our efforts advocating for initiatives like the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) and the SMART Visa program have been successful, with the launch of the SMART Visa in February. The new SMART Visa implements several of the advocacy issues we have long sought such as the elimination of the 90-day reporting period. This new visa is designed to attract skilled science and tech workers, investors, executives, and entrepreneurs, and should ease visa processing issues significantly, paving the way for more foreign talent to live and work here in Thailand. The EEC has also attracted a host of investors with a package of incentives, and to date the government has approved 168 infrastructure development projects worth 989 billion Baht. The government aims for its ambitious EEC plan to have a positive impact on infrastructure, accelerate GDP growth, and bring a host of other improvements to the business environment. To that end, the Chamber heard from Khun Duangjai Asawachintachit, Secretary General of the Board of Investment (BOI) Thailand during a joint chambers luncheon on February 23; Khun Duangjai briefed members on the BOI’s plans for attracting investment in the EEC, and expounded on how foreign businesses can take advantage of the BOI’s promotional schemes.
The Chamber continues to work on other issues affecting the regulatory and business environment, including ongoing concerns with excessive assessed duty payments related to the implementation of the new Customs Act B.E. 2560.
The AMCHAM office provides an array of services to keep member companies informed and connected, and acts as a conduit for new U.S. companies seeking to do business in Thailand. As mentioned earlier in this letter, the Board is exploring how to enhance these offerings.
The Chamber currently communicates with members through a number of channels and on a number of platforms—printed materials including T-AB Magazine and the Membership Directory, weekly e-mail briefs, the website, Facebook, and Twitter. We have given our T-AB Magazine a new look, and will be following suit with a revamped online and social media presence soon.
While the Chamber continues supporting networking events, monthly lunches, and Committee meetings with coordination of invitations, logistics, and registrations, we’re also investigating ways active committees can leverage their visibility and reach by sponsoring monthly panels in conjunction with networking nights.
We’re also looking at creating a more robust suite of services for companies and individuals interested in investing and starting new business endeavors here in Thailand. This could create a new source of income for the Chamber and help maintain funding for our important community engagement projects.
AMCHAM, through The American Chamber Of Commerce In Thailand Foundation (ATF), continues to invest in the future of Thailand by providing scholarships for university students and school renovations. The ATF has experienced a decline in funding over the past few years, and as a result the Foundation is focusing its efforts on the ATF Student Scholarship Program. With the efforts of the Community Engagement Committee, we hope the ATF Student Scholarship Program can continue at the same level as in the past – in 2017 we provided scholarships for just 174 university students with financial needs, compared to 199 students in 2016. Due to a lack of funding, the ATF has also ceased supporting the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program in order to refocus efforts on providing scholarships. As always, we encourage our members to support the ATF with donations or to support individual students directly through our Sponsor-A-Student program.
AMCHAM and ATF FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
The Treasurer’s reports and financial statements for both the Chamber and the American Chamber Of Commerce In Thailand Foundation are available for download by members, so that you can see how the Chamber spends its membership dues.
Although this year’s Chamber financial statements show a deficit of just over 1 million Baht, this was better than the budgeted deficit of 3.3 million Baht. The Chamber is fortunate to have a healthy cash balance, and in 2017 the decision was made to use some of the cash on hand rather than increase dues. Cash on hand also shows a significant decrease due to payment of cash collected for the Myanmar and Laos Chapters, which has now been returned to both these Chapters after establishing themselves as independent legal entities. The Chamber continues to be in a healthy financial situation and we anticipate making some substantial investments in 2018 related to new systems, staff resources, and minor office remodeling.