The Thai Board of Investment (BOI) intends to change the criteria it uses to identify projects eligible for promotional privileges, eliminating privileges for some types of projects while extending privileges to other types of projects. The BOI provides promotional privileges to companies engaged in projects designated by the BOI. These privileges range from various tax exemptions, permission to hire foreign workers and, often most important to foreign investors, permission for foreigners to own a majority or all of the shares in a company engaged engaged in BOI promoted activities. This is important because Thailand has a broad range of legislation and regulations that prohibit or restrict foreign ownership of or participation in Thai businesses. A general overview of investment restrictions in Thailand can be found here.
Unlike laws such as the Foreign Business Act (FBA), which has been static since its enactment (except for regulations and notifications issued in connection with the FBA), BOI privileges change in line with development strategies adopted by the Thai government. The Bangkok Post reports the latest changes will be extensive, saying: "The criteria, which currently cover more than 200 project types, need to be changed to be in line with the government's development strategy, investor demand and global economic trends…" In addition to this sort of major change, in practice, the BOI makes more nuanced (and less publicized) changes in the application of BOI rules on eligibility for BOI promotion. As the views of government officials change on what sort of businesses Thailand needs for its development, BOI policies and practices also change.
The Bangkok Post summarizes the announced changes as follows:
At present, BOI privileges vary depending on project location, with industries located in Greater Bangkok receiving the fewest incentives.
The new criteria give priority to projects in the sectors of creative industry, environmentally friendly practices, value-added industries, software, fashion, movies, alternative energy, tourism, biotechnology, health care and logistics.
Meanwhile, industries with a large amount of existing investment will be scrapped from the list, resulting in fewer than 100 types left.
Industries that invest in research and development will be provided with higher benefits, said Mr Udom.
As more information becomes available on the details of this announced major change in BOI policy becomes available, we will post more information here.