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Economy

Budget airlines ask for lifeline, no answers from PM

Caitlin Ashworth

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Budget airlines ask for lifeline, no answers from PM | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Prachachat
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No surprise that one of the biggest industries to suffer from the border closures and travel restrictions was the airlines. Whilst there has been a gradual reboot of domestic travel within Thailand, there is still a ‘fear’ factor and reticence to travel. And the carriers are restricted to the domestic routes and have lost an entire sector of their businesses – the international flights.

Things are not looking good, particularly for the Thai budget airlines. The Covid-19 pandemic crippled the industry and some say they’re barely surviving. They say the Thai PM promised a lifeline of billions of baht in soft loans, but he hasn’t followed up. At the same time, tax reductions on jet fuel are ending, which will dramatically increase operating costs.

Last month, PM Prayut Chan-o-cha agreed to allocate 24 billion baht in soft loans to 7 of Thailand’s domestic budget airlines, but there’s been no word on how or when the money would be allocated. Thai AirAsia, Thai Smile (the domestic ‘budget’ offshoot of Thai Airways), Thai Lion Air, Thai Viet Jet, Bangkok Airways and Nok Air all requested aid.

Although nothing has been said yet, Thai AirAsia officials expect to hear more details by next week. Executive chairman of Asia Aviation, the largest shareholder of the airline, Tassapon Bijleveld, told the Bangkok Post the PM is “following developments frequently.”

“We will face a real threat in the fourth quarter if Thailand cannot reopen to foreign tourists … Even though the government has approved a special tourist visa scheme, the action plan afterward is more important because tourism operators don’t have a clue how to start.”

Some reports say that Thai AirAsia and Bangkok Airways will be the only airlines getting the soft loans but Tassapon says he believes the other 5 airlines will get support, “it just might not be as much money as they wanted”.

Thai Lion Air is running on “self survival mode,” according to the head of commercial operations Nuntaporn Komonsittivate. She says the airline is maintaining domestic revenue and streamlining operating costs.

But it seems like the airline is barely surviving. Nuntaporn says flights need to be 70% full to prevent losses, but most weekday flights have been below 50%. Before the pandemic, flights typically hit 98%. Nuntaporn says it’s hard for any airline to get close to that mark.

On top of that, an excise tax reduction on jet fuel is ending this month. Jet fuel prices will go from 0.20 baht per litre back up to 5.1 per litre if the Finance Ministry does not extend the tax cut. Nuntaporn says it’s unlikely the ministry will extend it.

“The government asked us to reduce airfare to attract more local tourists, but the average selling price is already aligned with operating costs … And we have to bear a higher cost from excise taxes starting in October after just two months of reductions.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

Thailand

Thailand beaches may limit visitors until Covid-19 vaccine is available

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thailand beaches may limit visitors until Covid-19 vaccine is available | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Unsplash: Merve Selcuk Simsek

Beaches and national parks might not fully open to international tourists until a Covid-19 vaccine is available. Around 120 to 150 tourists departing from China are set to arrive in Phuket on October 8 after a 6 month ban on international tourists. They’ll have to go through a 14 day state quarantine, but after that, they may not be able to enjoy some of the island’s beaches. A report from Bloomberg says it’s “unlikely” beaches and parks will fully open to overseas travellers until a vaccine is out.

Thailand’s borders won’t fully reopen to international tourists until a vaccine is widely available to the public, according to Tourism Council of Thailand president Chairat Trirattanajarasporn. For the time being, only tourists on select charter flights with a 90 day Special Tourist Visa can enter the country.

“It’s good for the country to reopen even if it’s just for trial … Once we’ve tested our reopening plan for a month, we can assess how to go forward and allow more visitors to come in.”

The new Special Tourist Visa is an effort intended to help revive Thailand’s tourism industry which has been crippled by the coronavirus pandemic. According to Bloomberg, the sector makes but about a fifth of the nation’s economy. Last year, the tourism industry generated 1.9 trillion baht with about 40 million foreign visitors. With travel restrictions in place to control the spread of the coronavirus, Chairat predicts tourism revenue will drop 82.6% to 336.5 billion baht by the end of the year.

“Businesses that rely on foreign tourists, especially in Phuket, Samui, Pattaya and Chiang Mai, will continue to close in the coming months because there would only be a small group of people coming in after the reopening.”

SOURCE: Bloomberg

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Economy

Cabinet approves co-payment of 3,000 baht each for 10 million consumers

Maya Taylor

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Cabinet approves co-payment of 3,000 baht each for 10 million consumers | The Thaiger
PHOTO: www.bitcoretech.com

In its latest round of direct economic stimulus, the Thai government is to offer a co-payment of 3,000 baht each to 10 million Thai citizens for a period of 3 months. The scheme is expected to kick off on October 23 and run up the end of the year, with the co-payment subsidising half the cost of purchases, but excluding alcohol, tobacco, or the government’s bi-monthly lottery. There will be a maximum daily co-payment of 150 baht, and 3,000 baht per person in total.

Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri says Thai citizens over the age of 18 can sign up for the scheme from October 16. The subsidy will be transferred to consumers’ electronic wallets. Anucha says the scheme will cost around 30 billion baht and will provide a much-needed boost to small businesses. Businesses interested in participating can register from tomorrow.

The Bangkok Post reports that Cabinet have also approved the addition of an extra 1,500 baht to the monthly living allowance for nearly 14 million citizens holding state welfare cards. Recipients will get the 1,500 baht in 3 installments of 500 baht between October and December.

The government also plans to compensate businesses that hire new graduates, through the introduction of a co-payment plan. Companies hiring students who work part-time and are registered in the social security system, will receive help from the government. This is a change from the previous stipulation that only graduates not registered in the social security scheme could participate in the program.

Under the employment subsidy program, the government will pay 50% of graduates’ salaries for one year, beginning next month. Around 260,000 new graduates are expected to be included in the programme, which will be financed from the government’s 400 billion baht economic recovery fund.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Economy

Vietnam’s booming manufacturing sector reduced to a trickle as world pandemic kills demand

The Thaiger

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Vietnam’s booming manufacturing sector reduced to a trickle as world pandemic kills demand | The Thaiger

Vietnamese finance officials are downgrading expectations for a recovery of the south east Asian nation’s economy in 2021. The normally fast-growing gross domestic product in 2020 has stalled due to a huge drop in local and global demand, and the absence of international tourism. The booming economy, growing at an average of 6% per year since 2012, will struggle to reach a growth rate of 2% this year.

Fuelled by manufactured exports, the Vietnam economy has dropped back to a trickle. The Asian Development Bank estimates that this year’s GDP growth could be as low as 1.8%. The Vietnamese factories, that usually crank out shoes, garments, furniture and cheap electronics, are seeing dropping demand as the world’s consumer confidence drops dramatically.

Stay-at-home rules in Europe and America are keeping are keeping people away from retail stores. And despite the acceleration of online retail, many of the consumers are emerging from the Covid Spring and Summer with vastly reduced spending power.

The headaches of 2020 are also challenging Vietnam to maintain its reputation as south east Asia’s manufacturing hotspot. Rising costs and xenophobic foreign policy have put China ‘on the nose’ with some governments, complicating factory work in China, whilst other south east Asian countries lack infrastructure and are incurring higher wage costs.

One Vietnamese factory operated by Taiwan-based Pou Chen Group, which produces footwear for top international brands, has laid off 150 workers earlier this year. There are hundreds more examples of the impact of falling demand in the bustling Vietnamese manufacturing economy.

Vietnam’s border closure is also preventing investors from making trips, setting up meetings and pushing projects forward. Those projects in turn create jobs, fostering Vietnam’s growing middle class. Tourism has also been badly affected by the restrictions on travel. “International tourism is dead,” says Jack Nguyen, a partner at Mazars in Ho Chi Minh City.

“Inbound tourism usually makes up 6% of the economy.”

“Things will only pick up only when the borders are open and there’s no quarantine requirements. Who knows when that’s going to be.”

A mid-year COVID-19 outbreak in the coastal resort city Danang followed by the start of the school year has reduced domestic travel, analysts say. Some of the country’s hotels are up for sale as a result.

“Recovery could take 4 years.”

The Vietnamese Ministry of Planning and Investment is now warning that global post-pandemic recovery could take as long as 4 years, perhaps more.

Not that foreign investors in the country are pulling out. Indeed, many are tainge a long-term view that Vietnam’s underlying strengths will outlive Covid-19. Vietnam reports just 1,069 coronavirus cases overall.

SOURCE: VOA News

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