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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Medical, business sectors blame government over Covid-19

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: PM Prayut comtemplates how to get a hundred million of these vaccines to the people of Thailand. via Hindustan Times

Corporations are losing faith in Thailand’s political leaders as many in the medical, financial and business sector are placing the blame on the Prayut government for the current Covid-19 situation. They claim that corruption and cronyism is hindering and dampening a more decisive and productive course of action.

The Chamber of Commerce has already offered logistical support to expedite vaccinations with private hospitals offering to buy their own vaccines for distribution. Legal hoops by the health ministry are holding up the process along with vacillation from the government about allowing private entities to purchase vaccines, separate from the government.

Thailand ranks 124th out of 154 countries on the percentage of adults who have had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. And nearly 40,000 new Covid-19 infections have sprung from the third wave over the past 6 weeks.

An online campaign is gaining speed calling for the resignation of Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul helmed by a group called Mor Mai Thon, Thai for “doctors won’t tolerate this”. The campaign has gathered more than 200,000 signatures in the last few days on the recently-reinstated-in-Thailand petition site Change.org.

The strong move puts pressure on PM Prayut who had generally received the support of the middle class and the corporate sector since coming to power in a military coup in 2014. But with the countries medical crisis and shrinking economy, he may be losing that base. Business leaders have been critical of the slow vaccine rollout with the Thai Chamber of Commerce speaking out strongly about the damage to the economy as people are not getting vaccinated.

There’s more at stake here than just the vaccine roll out as the ruling Palang Pracharat coalition relies heavily on the support of the Bhumjaithai Party, led by the current Deputy PM and Public Health Minister Anutin. The public spat between the PM and his minister has resulted in Anutin’s sidelining as Prayut takes control of the country’s Covid levers.

The business and tourism sector are pointing the finger at PM Prayut and his government for failing to distribute and administer the vaccines, and not encouraging citizens to get vaccinated as quickly as possible. Tourism officials believe that the more efficient vaccine roll out in neighbouring countries like Hong Kong, Singapore, and Vietnam will draw the tourists that cannot come into ill-prepared Thailand.

Delays in the domestic production of AstraZeneca by Siam Bioscience has drawn whispered criticism for fear of strong punishment under the countries lese majeste laws. The company has strong links with the Thai royal family.

“Siam Bioscience is a biopharmaceuticals manufacturer founded in 2009 through the King’s Fund, which was set up by the Late King Rama IX to improve health and wellbeing.”

Registration and approval for vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson are still hanging in the balance and Sinovac is the main vaccine available in the country so far.

Last year the Thai government enjoyed praise for their strong containment of the Coronavirus outbreak and started this year on a positive note with efforts to acquire 63 million vaccines for half the population. But that praise is fading as missteps are not doing enough to contain the Covid-19 outbreak and vaccinate people against it.

Some political shuffling has taken place within the Thai government to try to quell the angry voices from the medical and business community. The PM has been granted stronger authority as a Covid czar to enforce laws like the Communicable Disease Act, stoking fears of authoritarian abuse. Thammasat University political scientist Prajak Kongkirati sees the move as an act of desperation.

“He has to show that he is doing something because the criticism is coming from his core supporters who he needs for political stability. The anger over vaccines has shaken Prayut’s support base.”

SOURCE: Nikkei Asia

 

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18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ynwaps

    Saturday, May 1, 2021 at 2:36 pm

    I only have 3 requests:
    -Get rid of Prayut
    -Free 🐧
    -No more student girls with uniforms

  2. Avatar

    zig

    Saturday, May 1, 2021 at 2:39 pm

    get rid of this imbecile

  3. Avatar

    Bedebtfree

    Saturday, May 1, 2021 at 2:53 pm

    Govts globally is the problem. Get rid of them and watch the world take off in a positive productive way.

    The free market is capable of fixing nearly all that’s wrong with the world.

    Getting rid of central bank fiat would also help a lot!

    Debt is basically heroin but for every human on the planet.

  4. Avatar

    Slugger

    Saturday, May 1, 2021 at 3:11 pm

    @zig – Obviously considered criticism. Imbecile. Worthy of the Penguin himself.

  5. Avatar

    Ted

    Saturday, May 1, 2021 at 3:44 pm

    Hey! at least PM shows that he is an elected leader, by keeping Anutin to stay in power in The House of Representatives.
    Also that he is prepared to do whatever, to stay in power because how to start a new coup d’état, against yourself (???). Even though, history is telling us what’s coming next…yeah a coup is getting closer and closer. Good luck Thais!

  6. Avatar

    richard barker

    Saturday, May 1, 2021 at 4:02 pm

    haven’t seen a decent politician in Government for years particularly in Australia. All in it for themselves.

  7. Avatar

    TS

    Saturday, May 1, 2021 at 4:20 pm

    “Thailand ranks 124th out of 154 countries on the percentage of adults who have had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. Nearly 40,000 over the past 6 weeks. corruption and cronyism hindering progress”
    Shameful non-performance. photo shows pm smirk contemplating getting vaccines to millions? No way is he doing that. Such vanity and arrogance is destroying this beautiful place

  8. Avatar

    Geoff

    Saturday, May 1, 2021 at 4:24 pm

    @Ynwaps – ah well, 2 out of 3 is not bad! 555!

  9. Avatar

    Dynamo Dave

    Saturday, May 1, 2021 at 4:25 pm

    ‘Thailand ranks 124th out of 154 countries on the percentage of adults who have had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.’
    A pretty shocking rating that puts Thailand in the bottom 20% percentile ranking or, more revealingly, over 80% of other countries are doing better. Imagine if you were doing so badly when you were at school. You’d be stood in the dunce’s corner, for sure.

    With the recently all-empowered Prayut – yes, that’s the Prayut that’s had his 2 shots and sees fit to go maskless in a Cabinet meeting where all other ministers are waring theirs – having failed to obtain a single vaccine dose since his Tuesday promotion to top dog, would it not be right, fair and justified for all the above-mentioned dissatisfied bodies to jointly cause one hell of a stir – like lynching the pretender maybe – and get him to explain to the Thai and world press EXACTLY WHAT THE PROBLEM IS, ‘cos we’d all dearly like to know.

  10. Avatar

    hoare

    Saturday, May 1, 2021 at 7:11 pm

    Nikkei article also states: “”But that plan to deliver only the local version of the AstraZeneca shot through Siam Bioscience has run into delays, with the expected rollout date pushed to July.””

    a pertinent point missing from ur article!

  11. Avatar

    Simon Small

    Saturday, May 1, 2021 at 7:22 pm

    “@zig – Obviously considered criticism. Imbecile. Worthy of the Penguin himself”

    Exactly, @Slugger. The Thaiger had it right, as do an increasing number.

    “Corruption and cronyism”.

    This disaster of a vaccine rollout can’t be excused by stupidity any more than it can by an excess of caution, but it can only be deliberate – including the delays.

  12. Avatar

    Simon Small

    Saturday, May 1, 2021 at 7:28 pm

    “… cos we’d all dearly like to know.”

    Let’s be realistic, @Dynamo Dave.

    The “above-mentioned dissatisfied bodies” almost certainly do “know” but the last thing they’re going to do is to spell it out.

  13. Avatar

    Stardust

    Saturday, May 1, 2021 at 8:07 pm

    Failed State, since the coup the economy and Thailand went down constantly. Now the househould deficit is too high and everything was financed by loans and the liquity is gone. Same game again like 97 the junta brought Thailand down again and is the bigest threat for the country again.

  14. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Saturday, May 1, 2021 at 8:12 pm

    @Ted – Wrong Ted. He was never elected for anything.

  15. Avatar

    John Loftus

    Saturday, May 1, 2021 at 8:40 pm

    Unfortunately the registration process is more complicated than necessary. I have been a permanent resident for almost 50 years but don’t have a pink card, which renders me ineligible for vaccination. Why not use just my 13-digit ID to register? Similarly, Thais should be asked for their ID details, i.e. age and citizenship instead of unnecessary data.

  16. Avatar

    Waverider

    Saturday, May 1, 2021 at 9:55 pm

    @Dynamo Dave – pm wants credit,
    No one wants to give.
    Only the Chinese one available & troops won’t have it.
    Of course the Elite’s get Astrazenica so all is well. 😡

  17. Avatar

    Dynamo Dave

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 11:07 am

    @Simon Small – Yes, maybe. Cheers, SS

  18. Avatar

    Mister Stretch

    Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 12:22 pm

    @John Loftus, if you’ve been a resident this long, do you have your yellow house book?

    I understand that is all you need to get your vaccine. They are not even making pink cards these days, as they say they are changing the system because of all the issues with the Myanmar illegals that were “legalized”, according to my Tedsaban.

    Of course, if they are only offering a 50/50 Chinese vaccination, I would think about waiting until a hospital near you buys their own.

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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10 years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

Business

Government will not re-capitalise struggling Thai Airways

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: Wikimedia

The State Enterprise Policy Office says the government will not back a billion-baht cash injection for Thai Airways. The national airline is currently been dragged through bankruptcy proceedings.

Pantip Sripimol from the SEPO says the Thai Finance Ministry will not re-capitalise the carrier, although it remains its largest shareholder. The Bangkok Post reports that there are concerns Thai Airways could become a state enterprise once more if the ministry were to assume a majority stake once more.

Last September, the Finance Ministry reduced its stake in the national airline to less than 50%, in an effort to facilitate the debt-rehabilitation process. As a result, the carrier is no longer a state-owned enterprise and it’s understood a number of cabinet ministers are concerned that, should the airline regain its status as a state enterprise, the government would have to guarantee a billion-baht loan to ensure its survival.

The Bangkok Post reports that both the Finance Minister, Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, and Deputy PM, Supattanapong Punmeechaow, both support re-establishing the airline as a state enterprise. They argue that doing so would improve its financial situation and provide more leverage for negotiating with creditors. Such a move would mean the Finance Ministry becoming a majority shareholder once again.

As it is, the airline’s bankruptcy proceedings have been taken up with renegotiating with creditors – mostly aircraft lessees. The majority of Thai Airways’ fleet remains grounded and gathering dust, parked at Suvarnabhumi airport.

However, Pantip says the ministry will not re-capitalise the airline and is prepared to reduce its shareholding if other investors purchased additional shares. The ministry currently has a 49.9% stake in Thai Airways, with Pantip saying it would be difficult to justify a further cash injection to shareholders.

With the airline now operating as a private business, the government is no longer obliged to prop it up monetarily, nor is the Finance Ministry obliged to offer financial help to a private company, despite being its largest shareholder.

On Wednesday, creditors will meet to discuss the airline’s debt restructuring plan and decide if they are to accept it.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Business

Thailand jumps on the electric bandwagon, aims to become EV production hub

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: Flickr / JCT 600

The Thai government has ambitious plans to turn the Kingdom into a Southeast Asian hub for the manufacture of electric vehicles. Nikkei Asia reports that big companies in Thailand are preparing to invest substantially in the greener mode of transport, after the National Electric Vehicle Policy Committee suggested a new manufacturing target could mean half of Thailand’s auto-production is made up of electric vehicles by 2030.

The message to car manufacturers and energy suppliers is to grab this opportunity to invest in the necessary infrastructure to support electric vehicles, as the number of drivers using such cars is expected to rise significantly. The Thailand Board of Investment says that between 2017 and 2019, investment in EV production and its infrastructure reached 79 billion baht. That figure is expected to rise at a much quicker rate over the next 3 years.

According to the Nikkei Asia report, Toyota was the first car manufacturer to make EVs in the Kingdom, with Chinese manufacturers becoming more competitive in recent years. The latest Chinese firm to join the EV revolution is Great Wall Motor, which plans to launch electric vehicles this year. The number of EV manufacturers in Thailand is also growing, but Surapong Phaisitpattanapong from the Federation of Thai Industries’ Automotive Industry Club says they still need to overcome serious supply chain challenges. He says manufacturers of the traditional internal combustion engine now find themselves trying to supply parts for electric vehicles, including batteries, motors and converters.

“It’s all about the economy of scale. If the number of EV users goes up substantially, it would be worth investing, and everyone, including auto parts makers, would be ready to switch to producing EV parts, and that would create supply chains that are ready for the development of EVs, but it will take time.”

Surapong points out that the government hasn’t provided enough subsidies to encourage the purchase of electric vehicles, saying there needs to be more of an incentive to deliver the sales boost needed.

“We think there should be a more direct subsidy for EV buyers to promote EVs, but we haven’t seen the government issue any kind of subsidies like that yet.”

SOURCE: Nikkei Asia

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Pfizer sees 45% increase in net income and revenue, as critics point to disparity in global vaccine availability

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Stock photo via Flickr

After seeing a 45% increase in net income from last year, Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant, is largely increasing its projected profits for this year. And, the increase is undoubtedly due to the high amount of Covid-19 vaccine sales, in which the company says is shaping up to provide a “durable” revenue stream.

The company says this year’s first quarter profits featured almost 1/4 of sales coming from the Covid vaccines. As it is teaming with German partner BioNTech, the company is set to increase its vaccine production, putting it on track to see US$26 billion in revenues from the vaccine this year. The new number-crunching is an increase from the US$15 million that was projected in February of this year.

But the profits are triggering criticism as governments are feeling pressured to ensure vaccines are available in poorer countries. Chief Executive Albert Bourla, says the company is holding dialogues with “basically all governments of the world,” and it is awaiting approval from the US for 12 to 15 year olds to be able to receive the jab.

The company is also studying the efficacy of giving inoculations, or boosters, every 6 or more months after the second dose- in a move that signals even more profits on the horizon. Bourla says this scenario would allow the company to be both a leader and a financial beneficiary.

“It is our hope that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will continue to have a global impact by helping to get the devastating pandemic under control and helping economies around the world not only open, but stay open.”

But last month, World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, cited a “shocking imbalance in the global distribution of vaccines” and emphasised that the WHO’s Covax programmes must be fortified soon to allow poorer nations to gain access to the inoculations.

Zain Rizvi, a law and policy researcher at progressive Public Citizen advocacy group, says Pfizer’s increase in profits show the need for governments to take action to save lives.

“Pfizer is cashing in on the crisis and hoarding technology, even as billions of people around the world go without a vaccine. Pfizer’s profiteering shows the urgent need for governments to step-in. Governments should require Pfizer to share technology with manufacturers around the world to help ramp up global production.”

Pfizer has defended its vaccine pricing policy, saying it has moderated the cost to encourage broad access through the pandemic phase that could continue into the year 2022. But with a net income increasing by 45%, at US$4.9 billion over the past year and revenues jumping the same percentage to US$14.6 billion, critics point towards the continued disparity of vaccine availability between poor and rich countries. Pfizer’s shares have also increased by .3% to US$39.95.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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