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Asia leads the world in medical tourism

Jack Burton

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Asia leads the world in medical tourism | Thaiger

Over the past ten years, Asia has become a favourite destination for medical tourism for people from around the world. Besides the white sand beaches, historic monuments and rich cultural legacy, healthcare in Asia is now a major attraction. From transplants and surgeries to dental procedures and botox, people are turning to Asia.

But what makes Asia the most popular destination? Some say lack of specialised treatments in their home countries or the affordable cost of treatment in Asia: these combined with ease of travel and lax visa rules for medical treatment have opened vast avenues for the region.

In 2017, some one million medical tourists visited Malaysia and 3.3 million visited Thailand. India too saw a surge from 4,27,014 medical tourists in 2016 to 4,95,056 in 2017.

Here’s a look at the top Asian countries for various medical treatments:

Thailand is popular for breast implants and gender reassignment surgeries. Since 2003, the Thai Government has taken steps to make Thailand a global centre for medical tourism through its Centre of Excellent Health Care of Asia initiative, and now has 37 Joint Commission International (JCI) accredited hospitals.

A 2016 WHO study revealed that medical tourists visiting Thailand were more likely to be residents of the eastern Mediterranean or south-east or south Asia. However, what makes the country a preferred destination is its world-class hospitality, highly specialised care and tailored care packages.

India is a favoured destination due to its its advanced technology, world-class surgeons and cost-effective treatments. Patients visit India not just for specialised treatment and surgeries but for routine check-ups as well.

India amended e-visa rules for 150 countries in 2016, making visa procurement easy for foreigners. India’s National Health Policy specifies that the government supports medical tourism and issues visas patients’ accompanying spouses.

Singapore is a choice for patients seeking state-of-the-art facilities, well trained doctors and quality care. Although it is one of the most expensive cities in the world, the city-state has more than 15 hospitals catering to medical tourists. Singapore was ranked the most attractive among seven Asian countries in terms of “patient experience”, but was also one of the least attractive in terms of cost-effectiveness.

Malaysia is picking up the pace and is a preferred destination for people from other Asian countries, especially Indonesia. Of one million medical tourists who visited the country in 2017, 600,000 were from Indonesia.

According to the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council, Malaysia has set a target of at least one million medical tourists from Indonesia by 2020. Since the health ministry regulates the prices that private hospitals charge in Malaysia, quality care at affordable prices lures patients from across Asia and the world.

World-famous for its beauty clinics, South Korea’s ambitions go beyond cosmetic surgery. According to the South Korea Ministry of Health and Welfare, about 3,64,000 foreign medical tourists visited the country in 2016, including patients from Canada, the USA, UAE, China and Japan.

South Korea’s healthcare system is considered one of the best in Asia and has established a niche in the medical technology industry. To promote medical tourism, the government offers a special visa to medical tourists and insurance that covers both injury and death resulting from medical treatment or procedures.

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

Economy

China grows 18.3%, the only major economy to grow in 2020

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China grows 18.3%, the only major economy to grow in 2020 | Thaiger
PHOTO: China - the second largest economy, and only major economy to grow last year.

China’s economy set a record for growth in Q1, 2021, marking an 18.3% jump in year-on-year figures, the biggest quarterly growth in almost 30 years. China only started publishing growth statistics in 1992, and this drastic increase is the fastest growth recorded since then.

The figures, however impressive, are mainly due to what is called a “low base effect” where the change from a low starting point translates into big percentage statistics. Because of the devastating economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Q1 2020 figures were dismal, allowing the big gain over the last year.

Quarter to quarter, the last 3 months saw only a 0.6% growth, but in the last quarter of 2020 China recorded an economic boom of 6.5% according to the Chinese government. Still, the figures are admirable, as China was the only major economy in the world to achieve growth in 2020. Most of the planet struggled to contain global Covid-19 outbreaks, crippling economies across the globe. But China, now the second-largest economy in the world, managed a 2.3% overall expansion. Even Chinese officials called the impressive statistics “better than we had expected.”

China has been growing in terms of imports and exports as well, with exports expanding nearly 31% and imports up 38% by price over last years.

SOURCE: CNN

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Economy

Thai household debt expected to keep rising- Kasikorn Research

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Thai household debt expected to keep rising- Kasikorn Research | Thaiger

Despite rolling out Covid-19 vaccines, in which could see a faster return to pre-Covid times, Thailand’s household debt is expected to keep rising. Kasikorn Research analysts say it could, in fact, reach 89-91% by the end of the year.

In a recent survey, KResearch says 10.8% of respondents could be stuck in a financial crisis. Of those who may be stuck, they indicated a drop in income, an inability to reduce expenses, and a high debt service burden per month that is exceeding 50% of their monthly incomes. This group of survey respondents is also concerned that it may not be able to provide for its basic needs in the near future.

In the 3rd quarter of 2020 and the year end, the figures were lower, at 86.6%, and 89.2% respectively. The upward trend isn’t unique as loans have increased while the economy has slowed. Almost 20% of household debts now are receiving financial-aid measures from financial institutions. The Bank of Thailand says the end of 2020 say 2.79 trillion baht tied up in financial relief programmes, which is equivalent to the 20%.

Despite government handouts and stimulus measures, the third wave of the pandemic is expected to increase outstanding debt under financial-aid programmes through the end of this month, but analysts say they are likely to not be any higher than the 3rd quarter of 2020. The amount of borrowers who may need further assistance after the relief programmes end in June 2021, is expected to be high.

The Covid vaccination rollout may give more flexibility in ending lockdowns in Thailand, funneling future financial assistance to those who are in serious need. The rollout may signal a switch from the standardized measures that were previously in place for determining who qualifies for financial aid, to a more individualised debt handling policy by financial institutions.

When asked what types of assistance are needed, survey participants ranked liquidity support at the top, followed by job creation that could help them maintain a stable revenue stream. Extension of financial-aid measures ranked 3rd. The rankings, indeed, point towards respondents needing to stabilize their platform of revenue first, before needing financial help.

SOURCE: Thai Enquirer

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2 emergency decrees provide businesses financial help

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2 emergency decrees provide businesses financial help | Thaiger
PHOTO: 2 Decrees aim for financial relief for struggling businesses

Thailand enacted 2 new emergency decrees today aimed at providing assistance to businesses and reducing default interest rates to help people affected by Covid-19. A deputy government spokeswoman confirmed the needed action was critical to protect and aid entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises during the time of pandemic-driven economic crisis.

The goal was to combat unfair interest rates on debt many are suffering, and to provide loans to help keep businesses afloat as the end of the Coronavirus is nowhere in sight.

The Emergency Decree on the Provision of Financial Assistance for Entrepreneurs Affected By the Covid-19 Pandemic allocates 250 billion baht in loans for businesses to recover from the devastating economic effects of the global pandemic. 100 billion baht of this is specifically set aside for those businesses in debt to participate in asset warehousing or debt repurchasing plans.

Asset warehousing allows businesses, like hotels, to essentially store their property in the care of a creditor for a fee until the economy recovers enough to take over the property again and start making money with it again. Debt repurchasing is a process for a business to buy back its own debt with better terms or a lower rate with the purchase price considered a payment to the principal debt not the interest, similar to refinancing a home.

The second of the emergency decrees, an amendment to the Civil and Commercial Code, looks to close loopholes caused by ambiguity in the law that allowed predatory creditors to charge unreasonable interest rates.

If someone missed a loan payment, the original law did not set a default rate, so lenders could charge additional interest. Debtors can now base default rate calculations on the unpaid principal in the updated law. The new decree sets a 3% yearly interest rate and lowers the default rate to 5% a year from the originally 7.5%. The Finance Ministry declared interest rates would be revised every 3 years.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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