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7-Eleven, Family Mart cash in on the pandemic

Caitlin Ashworth

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While some people are losing their jobs as a result of the pandemic, Thailand’s billionaires are getting richer. The owners of 7-Eleven and Family Mart are just two of them. The convenience store franchises are classified as essential services and have stayed busy, while some of the smaller mom and pop shops were forced to close due to the coronavirus outbreak. It’s reported that around 7 million people in Thailand could be unemployed by June.

To fix the economy’s problems, PM Prayut Chan-ocha sought help from Thailand’s elite. Last month, he said he would write a letter to 20 of Thailand’s richest people asking them for ideas on how to revive the nation’s economy. (He could have more easily picked up the phone and called them.)

The government has faced criticism for not doing more for the ordinary citizens, with millions clearly in need as they apply for cash handouts and wait in food queues in the steamy Thai midday sun.

The wealthiest person in Thailand, Dhanin Chearavanont, chairman of the CP All Group which owns 7- Eleven, responded with boasts about the 700 million baht the company has invested in efforts to control the coronavirus outbreak. He added that the company has plans to develop virus test kits and they have created more jobs.

Some of the big “five family” firms, CP All Group, ThaiBev, Central Group, King Power Group and Boonrawd (makers of Singha, Leo, U, Asahi), were supporters of the former-coup maker, now elected PM Prayut Chan-ocha’s 2019 election campaign. Some of the current “favours” and “concessions” for these companies is seen as alleged “payback” for their past support.

But while Chearavanont says 7-11 has created more jobs, the final numbers of extra jobs won’t make much of a dent on the millions unemployed. As poverty has risen over the past five years, profits and holdings for the major Thai conglomerates have increased.

Critics have argued the Prayut government should do more as Thailand’s Covid-19 relief measures already appear to be missing the mark. As many as 27 million Thais applied for the “Nobody Left Behind” cash handouts, a program policy-makers initially designed for only four million or so of the kingdom’s lowest earners. Over the past month there’s been constant criticism of the government’s ability to administer and pay out the meagre handouts.

SOURCE: Asia Times

 

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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.

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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Phuket

What will be the most expensive real estate on MONOPOLY: Phuket Edition?

Thaiger

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Phromthep Cape… Phuket Old Town… Patong Beach… These are just a few of the landmarks in Phuket that have now been short-listed since it was announced that Phuket will be getting its own edition of MONOPOLY.

The top squares of the the locally-themed game board will soon be handed over to Phuket’s most prominent places. With so much around Phuket that stands out, the public has been asked to help with what the top squares of MONOPOLY: Phuket edition should be.

“Thank you for everyone’s suggestions so far! We have seen so many wonderful ideas come in and we will start to put the game together very soon,” says Jennifer Lau of Winning Moves, the company putting together the Phuket edition of MONOPOLY under official license from MONOPOLY owners Hasbro.

“We’ve had so many suggestions for the most iconic places of Phuket to feature on the top end of the board, that it is difficult to decide what should be there!”

Tell Hasbro what you would like to see featured on the most prominent squares of the game by writing into the Phuket Monopoly Facebook page, or by emailing phuket@winningmoves.co.uk with your suggestions.

Maybe a “Go to jail (but pay 10,000 baht for a quick release)” or the Community Chest could be free for Thais but 500 baht for foreigners. When you land on a property you can be charged rent, but foreigners can’t buy the land. Go for it… 🙂

 

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