Advance Blog

February 18, 2021
Australian Embassy

Headlines summary as of 18 February 2021

 News

  • Updates related to COVID-19:
Newly confirmed case(s)Total CasesProvinces with confirmed casesDischarged from hospitalFrom 15 Dec, totally confirmed cases
15025,1116323,946 (at 95.36%)20,874
Local transmissionFrom abroadBeing hospitalised/ in field-hospital/ quarantinedConfirmed cases in BangkokDeath tollAccumulated cases from active case finding
142 [38 (get tested in hospital) + 104 (active case finding)] 8 (in SQ) 1,083934 [929 reported by BMA yesterday + 5 by CCSA today]82 (+0)14,256
  • In today’s press briefing, CCSA held a sub-committee meeting on lockdown ease-up and will propose the set of measures to the plenary CCSA meeting for approval.
  • In the briefing yesterday, the CCSA spokesperson said that the posh Sri Panwa Resort in the Southern province of Phuket will open its doors to the tourists from Indonesia under the Villa Quarantine scheme on 21 February 2021. The tourists will travel in a ‘bubble’ with chartered flight and have been tested for the coronavirus for 5-6 times as they were travelling to the US, Canada, Denmark, Brazil, and France. The spokesperson said that the scheme has been approved for quite sometimes but there has been no practical example. Sri Panwa could be the first par excellence example of opening Thailand’s doors to tourists during the pandemic.–Matichon

Politics

  • Today enters the third day of the censure debate, the Parliament is scheduled to hold the debate until Friday and cast the vote of no confidence on Saturday.
    • A MP from the Opposition Pheu Thai Party grilled the PM on his use of Article 44 to close down Akara mines which case is now on the arbitrary. MP Jiraporn Sindhuprai raised the media release by Kingsgate saying that Thailand has granted 44 special mineral prospecting licences (SPLs) over 397,226 rais of land to the company until 2025. The MP suspected this preferential treatment might be in exchange of the company to revoke its case from the arbitrary which is very likely a loss for Thai government.–Prachachat
    • Tomorrow, there will be a gathering at the Parliament by Mob Fest Group from 5.00 pm. And on 20 February, there will be the other major gathering, venue TBC.
  • On the protestor front, a court postponed the verdict for main protest figures on lese majeste, sedition and violating the Emergency Decree to be on 8 March.–ThaiPBS
  • The Constitutional Court has accepted the appeal to decide whether the Parliament has the authority to set up a Constitutional Drafting Assembly (CDA). The Coalition and Opposition are joining hands to propose a bill to set up the CDA and to revise a constitution. The appeal was submitted by coalition vocal MP Paiboon.—Khao Sod
  • The cutting-edge application Club House is getting to be platform for Thai dissidents to discuss (without a digital footprint) on issues regarded as taboos in the society. The Ministry of Digital Economy came out to warn users of distorting information and violating the law.–Reuters 
    • On 16 February, Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a dissent in Japan, held a discussion on ‘Vajiralongkorn and Australia’ which was fully occupied within minutes.

Economic:

Cabinet’s Decision, 15 February 2021

Approved a 50-billion-Baht loan programs through state banks, valid until 30 June.  Government Savings Bank (GSB) and Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives is each allocated 20 billion Baht to offer informal workers loans with 0.1 percent interest monthly for 3 years.The remaining 10 billion Baht goes to GSB as loans to tourism-related SMEs.  Applicants must have vacant lands or land and buildings for use as collateral. The credit line will not exceed 70 percent of the government’s land appraisal value, with the maximum credit line capped at 50 million baht.  It has a 3-year loan period with step-up interest rates at 0.1 percent, 0.99 percent and 5.99 percent per year for the first, second and third years. Source:  Bangkok Post

Approved 37.1 billion Baht for the ‘Mor33 Rao Rak Kan’ cash handout scheme to 9.27 million workers covered by Section 33 of the Social Security Act. The government will offer 4,000 Baht to each worker, to be overseen by the Labour Ministry.  The applicants can register from Feb 21 – March 7.  The new relief followed a recent 210-billion Baht cash handout scheme for 31 million people.  Source:  The Nation

The 2020 GDP and Projection for 2021

According to official statistics from National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC), Thai GDP in Q4 of 2020 contracted by -4.2 percent YoY.  This was better than expected (Q2 GDP contracted by -12.1 percent and Q3 was -6.4 percent) as domestic activities recovered after the easing of the lockdown restrictions.  In Q4, growth was fuelled by private consumption (+0.9 percent) and government expenditure (+1.9 percent).  The lack of international tourists remained a drag on growth, with services export plunging by 74.8 percent YoY in Q4 of 2020. 

Overall, the Thai economy shrank by -6.1 percent in 2020; the worst contraction since the 1997-1998 Asian Financial Crisis.  Exports of goods and services had plummeted by -19.4 percent.

For year 2021, NESDC had revised downward its forecast for the 2022 economy to a growth of 2.5-3.5 percent from 3.5-4.5 percent.   This is because the Q1 of 2021 growth is likely to be hampered by the renewed surge in pandemic outbreak that started in late 2020.  Sources: Bangkok Post NESDC press release

Others

Overseas businesses that gain revenue over 1.8 million Baht from providing services in Thailand will be required to pay a 7 percent Value-Added Tax from 1 Sept onward, according to an announcement published in the Royal Gazette on 10 Feb 2021.  This will apply to foreign e-service providers such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Netflix, Line, YouTube and TikTok.  The VAT collection is expected to generate revenue of 5 billion Baht for the government in the first year of its enforcement.  Sources:  Bangkok PostManager OnlineRoyal Gazette Announcement 10Feb2021

NESDC urged the government to take a clear stance on CPTPP because delays in applying to join the trade pact has high opportunity cost.  Moreover, the government should prioritise advancing on regional economic cooperation as it will boost investors’ confidence and draw FDIs, which are crucial to Thailand’s economic recovery.  To boost export this year, Thailand should also maximise the benefits offered by RCEP and pursue various forms of economic cooperation, such as Economic Partnership, bilateral agreements and FTAs.  Sources:  Thai Rath Bangkok Post

Ministry of Commerce’s Department of Trade Negotiations said RCEP will enable 90-92 percent of Thai exports to 15 member countries to enjoy zero tariff, while offering greater access to the Chinese, South Korean and Japanese markets.Among its many benefits include facilitating trade and investments, paperless trading and e-commerce.MoC expects RCEP to be enforced within this year and in the long run, MoC will have to make a number of adjustments, such as on intellectual property, to meet RCEP requirements.  Source:  Department of Trade Negotiations Press Release  Thansettakij Poojadkarn Online

Australia

  • The Royal Visit to the Ambassador Residence and the press conference afterwards are still on bulletin.
    • The Visit was on the Court Circular on 16 February and publicised on almost all outlets.
    • The press conference went well with coverages on myriad of media outlets. HOM’s comment on the event was well-placed. HOM was quoted saying that the King said he had watched the documentary for several times and when HOM presented the credentials to the King earlier on the King said he love Australia.
The Australian Embassy Bangkok
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