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Covid-19 could lead to a crisis worse than the 1997 Asian financial crisis

Caitlin Ashworth

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Covid-19 could lead to a crisis worse than the 1997 Asian financial crisis | Thaiger
PHOTO: Chiang Rai Times

With debt relief measures set to expire this month, Thailand’s financial woes, brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, might end up being worse that the 1997 Asian financial crisis, known in Thailand as the Tom Yam Kung crisis, according to the Bangkok Commercial Asset Management.

The 1997 Asian financial crisis started in Thailand with the financial collapse of the Thai baht after the Thai government was forced to float the baht due to lack of foreign currency to support its currency peg to the U.S. dollar.

Thailand’s booming economy came to a halt amid massive layoffs. The baht devalued swiftly and lost more than half of its value. The baht reached its lowest point of 56 units to the U.S. dollar in January 1998. The Thai stock market dropped 75%. Finance One, the largest Thai finance company until then, collapsed. – Wikapedia

A major issue is non-performing loans, or NPLs, which are loans that are more than 90 days overdue, the firm’s chairperson Bunyong Visatemongkolchai says. The NPLs make up 500 billion baht, or 3.05% of the total credit in the system, he says. Relief measures like debt reduction and debt restructuring were first put in place by the Bank of Thailand in April to aid businesses battered by the pandemic, but the programme is set to end this month and NPLs are expected to increase.

Bunyong estimates that 20% of registered debt would become NPLs, increasing the loans from 500 billion baht to 2 trillion baht, similar to the total NPL in 1997.

Since the pandemic, special mention loans have doubled, increasing from last year’s 5 billion baht to this year’s 10 billion baht, according to the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank of Thailand. These loans, which are more than 30 days, but less than 90 days overdue, are expected to turn into NPLs, adding up to 3 billion baht, according to the bank’s president.

A “vicious cycle” could occur if loans to small and medium sized enterprises become NPLs, a source from the Finance Ministry told the Bangkok Post in an earlier report. The management firm says financial institutions will not go bankrupt as easily as in 1997 as they have a reserve fund to deal with potential economic problems.

SOURCES: Nation Thailand | Bangkok Post

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32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Thai guy

    Monday, October 12, 2020 at 4:27 pm

    Do not worry. Out beloved PM Khun Prayut has made the Thai economy very strong. Thailand has huge foreign exchange reserves and little external debt. Also China our best friend is the world’s largest economy, and most powerful country. We have nothing to fear, unlike the Western world which has come to an end.

    • Avatar

      Peter

      Monday, October 12, 2020 at 7:24 pm

      Tell that to the Thai who has car, house, motorbike and iPhone on monthly repayments that in no way can they pay off.
      Just like China personal debt is huge. 20% of GDP driven off a cliff for years to come.
      China will asset strip Thailand for cents on the dollar.
      Lucky they have economic geniuses, like you, to bankrupt the other 80%.

    • Avatar

      Maag

      Monday, October 12, 2020 at 8:56 pm

      2nd degree I guess ….

      • Avatar

        patnou

        Wednesday, October 14, 2020 at 6:56 am

        3rd degree even 55555

    • Avatar

      James

      Monday, October 12, 2020 at 10:09 pm

      Thai Guy

      You are either joking or you live in a dream world.

      Just wait six months and then tell me what a good friend China is to you.

      But don’t worry, when we in the West invent an inoculating drug against the virus we will sell it to you at a good price.

    • Avatar

      Andy

      Monday, October 12, 2020 at 10:20 pm

      Hahaha

    • Avatar

      Mike

      Monday, October 12, 2020 at 10:22 pm

      The actual subject being discussed aside – you sound like a really horrible person.

    • Avatar

      Bobby m

      Tuesday, October 13, 2020 at 2:11 am

      Thai Guy – Seriously, you want China as your best friend. I suggest you do a bit more research first. Maybe you should try talking to the people of Hong Kong. If Thailand becomes “little China” and there is every possibility of that. I don’t know what business your in, but you can be assured your income will be at least halved and if you complain “you will simply disappear” permanently. Why do you think everything from China is so cheap.

      Oh and by the way. If you look at the article titled “ No one in Guangzhou applied for the Special Tourist Visa, Foreign Ministry” looks like you new best friend never turned up.

      Good luck with that one.

    • Avatar

      Albert Zweistein

      Tuesday, October 13, 2020 at 3:23 am

      Dream on !

    • Avatar

      John C.

      Tuesday, October 13, 2020 at 9:35 am

      China isn’t your best friend. They just want to turn your country into an open air sweatshop for Chinese profits, while you work for peanuts.

    • Avatar

      Mark Franklin

      Wednesday, October 14, 2020 at 4:08 am

      China has the same problem maybe worse

  2. Avatar

    skeptic

    Monday, October 12, 2020 at 4:35 pm

    please, the crisis is not from the covid virus, it’s from the massively disproportionate overreaction to it

  3. Avatar

    Robert Bunker

    Monday, October 12, 2020 at 4:49 pm

    It will be interesting to see whether the Thai junta, sorry government, have the wherewithal to understand the implications for the economy. If they think that they can strongarm and prescribe to global markets in the way they thank they can to foregn tourists in terms of what they like / don’t like or will allow / not allow they may well find that for them the game will finally be up.

  4. Avatar

    Peter

    Monday, October 12, 2020 at 7:24 pm

    Tell that to the Thai who has car, house, motorbike and iPhone on monthly repayments that in no way can they pay off.
    Just like China personal debt is huge. 20% of GDP driven off a cliff for years to come.
    China will asset strip Thailand for cents on the dollar.
    Lucky they have economic geniuses, like you, to bankrupt the other 80%.

  5. Avatar

    Maag

    Monday, October 12, 2020 at 9:00 pm

    Thailand is covid free , and a great country .
    Our beloved PM prayuth a great leader …..
    So no panic , everything is under control guys !

    • Avatar

      Albert Zweistein

      Tuesday, October 13, 2020 at 3:26 am

      Yes a great country, a pitty it’s dirty everywhere.

    • Avatar

      John C.

      Tuesday, October 13, 2020 at 9:37 am

      > Thailand is covid free

      Oh dear. Do you believe the official lies? Saving face applies to hiding inconvenient statistics too.

  6. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Monday, October 12, 2020 at 9:11 pm

    Yes wealth has no boss, it moves without much a government can do.
    The Thai government with all their manipulations, can not prevent wealth leaving the country, which I believe is happening.

  7. Avatar

    Glenn

    Monday, October 12, 2020 at 9:47 pm

    the govt followed the script, pushed(is pushing) the propaganda and fear, the govt is responsible for the huge losses. on a macro scale, the WEF, UN, WHO, and many powerful orgs that want to bring in a one world govt/great reset have succeeded with using the CV scam to move countries in that direction. I have no doubt that very fat ‘brown envelopes’ containing instructions and rewards were handed down to many in the govt.
    And the sad part about this is that it appears most Thais are oblivious to this, and are still scared of a deadly virus (that never was deadly particularly in Thailand). The day I see people taking their masks off and demanding the truth from the rulers and waking the #$%^ up – then I will very glad to again live in the LOS instead of the Land of Masks.

  8. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Monday, October 12, 2020 at 10:11 pm

    Thai Guy. Yeah Yeah Yeah. The West is finished.
    China is run by dictators like your government, and will turn you into slaves.
    They will loot you, take you over economically, bribe your politicians and will be your new bosses.

  9. Avatar

    Don R

    Monday, October 12, 2020 at 10:19 pm

    WHO now admitting that global poverty and child malnutrition could double by next year because of the lockdowns. I’m just guessing, those who die of poverty will be a lot younger than those who die of covid…

  10. Avatar

    EdwardV

    Monday, October 12, 2020 at 10:35 pm

    Another in a growing list of articles and projections of impending economic collapse. How hard is it to understand a country can’t lose 20% of your GDP (really much more if you count the informal economy) and bad thing not happen? There is a reason countries like Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Australia, and Hong Kong are starting to open to TOURISM even if it’s slowly and carefully. The high season is upon Thailand and there is no plan to take advantage of it. Unless you count the imaginary Chinese tourists who are going show up and save the day.

  11. Avatar

    RA

    Tuesday, October 13, 2020 at 8:50 am

    A rolling loan gathers no loses.

  12. Avatar

    John

    Tuesday, October 13, 2020 at 10:14 am

    Thailand doing the best possible! If Thailand reopens to Westerners and Covid comes back everything will have to be closed again and Thai people will start to dislike the foreigners. Thailand has never being colonized and never will be and few drunks from the West missing for 1 season want destroy the economy. Look at UK and US and it’s freedoms of not wearing masks, most of England under lockdown, closing pubs bars , restaurant schools. We have everything open here in Thailand and of course there is no golden bullet for that virus unless you one of those who say 210thousand people who died in USA, but they would die anyway in 8 maybe 10 years anyway. Of course economy suffers but where about in the world it doesn’t? I do not see even 1 comment saying , Thailand should fallow the way ………..(name the country) delt with Covid situation! What is the country which did best guys in your opinion? I want to know please.

    • Avatar

      Don R

      Tuesday, October 13, 2020 at 11:44 am

      Or… you could accept that the small risk from covid is insignificant compared to Thailand falling into poverty on the level of other SE Asian countries like Cambodia/Laos/Myanmar, which would result in a dramatic decline in life expectancy for Thai people (read: loss of life).

      Sweden had the best response IMO.

      And 210k American deaths isn’t as significant as it seems. Over 2 million Americans die every year. The country has 330 million people. Covid is displacing deaths from other causes like cancer and heart disease. In many places, excess deaths have already fallen below average. It’s called displaced mortality.

      • Avatar

        John

        Tuesday, October 13, 2020 at 6:40 pm

        As I mention before, I will not win an argument with a person who says 210k dead Americans ( so far) is insignificant

    • Avatar

      Patrick Wahle

      Tuesday, October 13, 2020 at 12:08 pm

      Taiwan

      • Avatar

        John

        Tuesday, October 13, 2020 at 6:38 pm

        2 weeks quarantine required.

    • Avatar

      Mike Frenchie

      Tuesday, October 13, 2020 at 2:31 pm

      Sweden, Holland… in any case the vaccine will never work above 50-70%… is Thailand going to be closed forever? Think again…

      • Avatar

        John

        Tuesday, October 13, 2020 at 6:55 pm

        Sweden population 10 mln and 6000 dead. Comparing to Thailand 66 mln we would have 42000 people dead.
        Sweden amount of respirators and ICU beds per capita is one of the highest in the world if not the highest.If Thailand allowed the same thing as in Sweden I believe the health system wouldn’t handle that and the deaths would be in 100 of thousands.
        Holland would be a similar thing,the country can allow more people to get infected as the treatment can be provided to more patients at the same time. Everyone of you who visits Thailand’s private hospital forgets that many of Thais do not have that privilege, also many Thais share houses with different generations, vulnerable grandparents etc.

  13. Avatar

    Boy Peacemaker

    Tuesday, October 13, 2020 at 1:11 pm

    I agree with John that Thailand has done a good job containing the virus. Better than many Western countries. It can be argued that it overreacts, since the virus is not that deadly, especially considering Thailand’s economic dependence on tourism. However, Thailand and Asia are very differently positioned than in 1997. Nowadays Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, HK and Singapore have grown into western economies. China is the second largest economy in the world. And most if not all ASEAN nations have been outgrowing western economies for the past generation in percentage terms. In 1997, Asia was more or less economically insignificant to the world. Today it stands as an equal, not yet technologically but certainly size wise.

  14. Avatar

    James

    Tuesday, October 13, 2020 at 8:37 pm

    Simple

    The current government lost the last election so they canceled the results and stayed in power.

    And so now they have hidden the true virus statistics.

    I was in Thailand for 7 months this year and everyone was packed in a close to each other in supermarkets etc, there is no way the number of deaths caused by the virus is so low.

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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.

Pattaya

Unemployed elephants walk 500 kilometres from Pattaya to Surin

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Unemployed elephants walk 500 kilometres from Pattaya to Surin | Thaiger
PHOTO: Elephants walking down the road because their car is in the shop.

A group of 5 elephants and their owners began the long walk today from Pattaya to Surin after giving up on the return of tourism anytime soon. The 500 kilometre journey has to be done on foot as they couldn’t afford to hire trucks large enough to carry each elephant.

After waiting a year for the Chinese tourists that make up a majority of their customer base to return, the families decided to embark on the long journey with the 5 elephants to their home in the northeastern province of Surin. As they walk they’re protected on both sides by pickup trucks to keep them safe from cars.

5 years ago Napalai Mai-ngam came with her relatives to work in an elephant resort in Tambon Lam Huay Yai of Bang Lamung near Pattaya with their 5 elephants. They told the Bangkok Post that their earned a good living, about 75,000 baht (15,000 per elephant) plus tips from the tourists to ride elephants on nature trails, each month.

But with the borders closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic the tourists from China who usually flocked to elephant activities, were stuck back in China and Napalai’s boss had to cut their pay. Even with vaccinations finally underway, tourists in numbers, enough to sustain activities like elephant camps, may not be back anytime soon. The families finally had to surrender to the reality and start the long walk home.

They avoid the blistering Thai sun by walking early mornings while the weather was still cool, and hope the roadways out of Pattaya would provide snacking opportunities for the elephants to graze. They expect the journey to take about 2 weeks. The families have turned down offers of cash donations for fear that their long walk will be viewed as a publicity stunt.

That said, the families have expressed gratitude to the locals in towns they pass who have donated drinking water, food and fruit to the entourage of people and elephants. If you would like to donate resources you can contact them on phone number 093 335 7062.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Economy

Southern Thai people turn from tourism to gold panning

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Southern Thai people turn from tourism to gold panning | Thaiger
PHOTO: Traditional panning for gold replaces tourism for income in Southern Thailand

Thars gold in dem hills!

With tourism in Thailand struggling due to Covid-19, and an economy needing some help, some people in the southern Thai region of the country have found income in an unusual source: panning for gold. The Sukhirin region close to the Malaysian border is known for gold deposits in the Sai Buri River and surrounding mountains. Villagers who made money before with tourism have now returned to panning for gold using old-fashioned manual techniques their ancestors used, without the aid of any machinery. Well, just an old pan.

Locals had previously made money selling food to passing tourists or acting as a tour guide to take people around the area, where travellers seeking to get away from the crowded and overdeveloped tourist areas that attract the most foreigners find many unique activities. Kayaking was a popular local activity with up to 150 people a day sailing down the rivers that are now filled with locals panning for gold. The prospectors are now making their income from the gold they collect which sells for 1,500 baht per gram. Families that work together can often collect at least one gram a day.

Thai Gold prices have reached record highs over the last 2 years and many Thai people have traditionally used gold and gold jewellery as a form of savings and investment, pawning their gold rings and bracelets in times of financial emergencies. The gold collected from these Southern villages will be used to make jewellery in Bangkok.

The region had invested in expanding into ecotourism but the pandemic put all their construction plans on hold. A cable car was being built to transport people up to the tops of the mountains to beautiful temples. The area’s unique history attracted people to their annual Rocket Festival, typically a north-eastern celebration.

In 1932, France was granted a 25 year mining contract in the jungles. They extracted almost 2000 kg of gold before World War II forced closure. The mining tunnels still exist and sometimes attracted adventurous tourists, but now sit vacant aside from snakes. In the 1960s the Thai government incentivised northerners with 18 rai of land each to move to the region. As a result, the area stands out in the Muslim region with 90% of the population being Buddhist, and most still speaking Isan dialects.

SOURCE: France 24

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Thai baht performs worst of all Southeast Asian currencies

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Thai baht performs worst of all Southeast Asian currencies | Thaiger
Photo by Peter Hellberg for flickr

Among common currencies in Southeast Asia, the Thai baht was the worst performing in the first quarter of 2021, mostly due to Covid-19’s effect on tourism in Thailand.

This week the baht hit its lowest point in half a year, falling 4% against the US dollar to 31.24. The decline was the sharpest in all of the Southeast Asian nations. The Indonesian rupiah fell 3.4% and the Malaysian ringgit fell 3.1%, while the Philippine peso and Singapore dollar dropped 1% and the Vietnamese dong basically held steady. Kyats, the Burmese currency did plummet further, 5.6%, following the military coup in Myanmar on February 1, but it’s not considered a common currency.

Thailand’s depreciation is heavily due to the economic downturn as a result of the pandemic which has all but killed Thailand’s tourist-heavy economy. With borders closed, the drop in foreign tourism pumping money into the economy has left a glaring hole. Before Covid-19, in the third quarter of 2019, Thailand held a surplus of US$11.5 billion baht. By the third quarter of 2020, the surplus had fallen to $6.6 billion, and by the end of the year, it had slid to a deficit of $1.4 billion.

Thailand had been bolstered by the surplus and by the constant influx of tourist spending supporting the economy. Tourism money fell to $742 million due to the pandemic border closure, just 5% of the equivalent period last year. The government is hoping to restart the tourism economy and pump more Thai baht into the country with a variety of actions to shorten quarantine, reopen key tourist locations like Phuket, and eventually allow in vaccinated travellers without any quarantine.

Many are still unsure of Thailand’s stability, with investors, importers and exporters still having doubts. The Finance Minister believes there’s no need to panic, as he was expecting a backlash when the Thai baht hit a 7 year high. They have acted by increasing investment limits to US$5 million for Thais to buy foreign securities, up from US$200,000 and loosened restrictions on foreign currency deposits.

SOURCE: Nikkei Asia

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