On 12 and 14 March seminars were held in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, titled Swedish Knowledge Economy, From Natural Resources to High-Technology, was organized by the Thai Public Policy Development Office in cooperation with the Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok. Co-organisers in Chiang Mai were also the Faculty of Economics at Chiang Mai University and Federation of Thai Industries. The seminars attracted about fifty participants each.
Since the beginning of the 21st Century Sweden has been ranked among the top performing countries regarding Research and Development. How did Sweden change from one of the poorest countries in Europe 150 years ago into one of the most developed states today?
This question was elaborated upon in depth by Professor Ari Kokko, Stockholm School of Economics, at seminars in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
At the seminar in Bangkok Mr Jonas Hafström, Ambassador of Sweden and Mr Rongpol Chareonpun, Secretary General of the Cabinet made some introductory remarks. Then Professor Yongyuth Yuthavong, Minister of Science and Technology, opened the seminar. Further contributions to the seminars were made by Professor Said Irandoust, Asian Institute of Technology as well as Dr Patarapong Intarakumnerd, National Science and Technology Development Agency.
Professor Kokko stressed the fact that the development of Sweden was a conscious effort of Swedish politicians. At the end of the 19th Century, Sweden searched for inspiration from other countries that were more developed. In a similar way to what Thailand sought to do with this seminar.
Some of the most important factors that have contributed to the development of Sweden are according to Professor Kokko:
• Access to raw material (woods, grains) at a moment of increased international demand
• Well prepared institutional system in the beginning of the development of the industrial sector
• Good human capital due to free education for all
• Innovation capacity and ability to look beyond what is needed for the moment
• New enterprises based on innovations (Ericsson, Alfa-Laval, AGA, Nobel, SKF)
• Free healthcare for all
Professor Kokko said that the road to high-tech industries may seem tempting, but that there also are other sectors whose development can further the economy of a country. He pointed out that such sectors where Thailand is particularly advanced are Health Tourism, Advertising and Hospitality.