Advance Blog

January 20, 2021
Australian Embassy

Headlines summary as of 20 January 2021

News

  • Updates related to COVID-19:
Newly confirmed case(s)Total CasesProvinces with confirmed casesDischarged from hospitalFrom 15 Dec, total confirmed cases from clusters
5912,653609,621 (at 76.84%)8,416
Local transmissionFrom abroadBeing hospitalised/ in field hospital/ quarantinedConfirmed cases in BangkokDeath tollAccumulated cases from active case finding
28+23 (active case finding)8 (in SQ)2,961619 [606 reported by BMA yesterday + 13 by CCSA today]71 (+1 a 48 years old lady in Mae Sot District, Tak)4,130
  • A private hospital conglomerate is going to sue Thai Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for monopolisation of vaccine. The executive of Thonburi Group said that FDA told their approval form for Sino Vac will take three months. Meanwhile, the government-initiated emergency import of the same Sino Vac approval is reported to have a green light within this week. The chairman of the hospital chain said that if the FDA approved merely the government’s proposal, the hospital will sue the FDA.—Than Settakij A media reached out to the FDA for comment, there is yet a response.—Inside Thailand
  • With the number of daily confirmed cases dwindled, authorities are eyeing to easing the lockdowns:
    • Bangkok Metropolitan Administration will convene its meeting with its communicable disease committee tomorrow. Should the committee agrees, BMA will inform the public in due course.—Krungthep Turakij
    • The PM said after the weekly cabinet meeting that the lockdown measures seem to put the new infections under control. The PM hinted that the decision on easing the lockdown will be made at the end of this month after seeing the figure.–Manager

Politics

  • Yesterday, the anti-establishment protest returns to the bulletin:
    • A university student protestor who held a paper banner criticising the King’s vaccine company was allegedly slapped in the face by the mall security guard. Yesterday, at the posh Icon Siam Department Store, the protestor hold a banner wrote “Monopolising the vaccine, creating a scene for the royals” as a defiant act against yesterday’s news on the sole rights of reproducing the AstraZeneca vaccine that King Vajiralongkorn-owned (formerly by Crown Property Bureau) Siam Bio Science has. The protestor was taken to the nearby police station.
    • A small group of student-led protestors joined the lady while she went to the police and press charges against the security guard.
    • At dusk, more protestors waited for the response from the mall’s executive who said they will decide on the action within 24 hours.–ThaiPBS
    • Twitter users launched the hashtag #แบนไอคอนสยาม Ban Icon Siam in response to the  alleged crime.—Thai Enquirer
    • Yesterday, top health officials came out to defend the royal company’s role in the national vaccine strategy.–Reuters
  • Deputy PM Prawit and main ruling Palang Pracharat Party (PPRP) leader said three ‘Don’t know’ to the media inquiry on 1. Whether his close aide Senator General Noppadol Inthapanya is going to set up a new political party; 2. Whether he is not on the grilling list in the upcoming censure debate; and 3. Whether he has been talking with the Opposition to have his name removed from the list?–Manager
  • Main Opposition Pheu Thai Party just held a press conference saying that in the upcoming general election, the largest party in the House is going to file the party candidate in all 350 constituencies. The party leader said there will be no split party strategy. The secretary-general of the party said that the party is setting up a new committee to recruit the party candidate for MPs.—Pheu Thai Party
  • Royalist Thai Bhakdhi Movement held a press conference on the set up of the royalist party aiming to tackle Kao Klai Party, Progressive Movement and student-led protestors.—Thai Bhakdhi
  • The government whip said the government is ready for the censure debate to be from mid-February. Mr Wirat Ratanaset laid out the timeline of the vote of motion that should the Opposition is to submit the motion on 25 January, the debate could be from 16-19 February and the vote will be on 20 February.—Thai Post
  • After claiming to be abducted by someone from the Internal Security Operation Command (Isoc), police showed CCTV footage that the protest guard Mongkol ‘Yel’ Santimethakul has been giving a false information. The police said that Yel was alone on the night he claimed to be abducted.—Thai Rath

Economic:

Cabinet’s approvals, 19 Jan 2021

  • The cabinet approved for 210 billion Baht worth of handout through the “Rao Chana” (We Win) project to an estimated 31 million people who are affected by the pandemic. The funding for Rao Chana will be drawn from the 1 trillion Baht loan, from the portion allocated to coronavirus financial aid of which there is 200 billion Baht remaining.  The additional 10 billion Baht will be transferred from the portion under Economic and Social Rehabilitation budget.
  • The Rao Chana handout is worth 3,500 Baht per person and will be given away for 2 months from January – February 2021.  The money will be transferred electronically to recipients.
  • Eligible applicants must have a maximum of 500,000 Baht in their savings bank account and annual income not exceeding 300,000 Baht.  The handout targets informal workers who are not covered by Section 33 of the Social Security System and are not government or SoE officials.  The 13 million low-income state welfare cardholders are also eligible.
  •  Those who have downloaded Pao Tung app earlier will receive the handout automatically through the app, after the government has verified their eligibility through existing data.  New applicants must register through the website www.เราชนะ.com from 29 Jan to 12 Feb.  For both groups, the payment to eligible recipients will be transferred through the Pao Tang app.  The first payment of 3,000 Baht will be made on 18 February, followed by weekly payments of 1,000 Baht for 4 weeks on Thursdays.
  • State welfare card holders will automatically receive their first payment on 5 February worth 675 or 700 Baht that will added to their welfare cards.  They will receive the same amount of money weekly, on every Friday, from 12 February to 26 March. 
  • Finance Minister Akhom said the Rao Chana scheme alone could boost GDP by 0.5 per cent.  The third phase of the co-payment subsidy program, Khon La Krueng, also contributes 0.5 percent.  The implementation of both schemes will ultimately boost GDP by 1 percent.  Minister Akhom admitted that the 3,500 Baht handout is sufficient only to mitigate the hardship of the people, but not enough to compensate for people’s losses.  Sources:  Ministry of Finance Press Release  Bangkok Post  The Nation

Others

  •  The cabinet approved of launching the third phase of the government co-payment scheme, Khon La Krueng, after 1.34 million claims were not exercised in the earlier 2 rounds.  Online registration for the third phase opened at 6:00 am today and the 1.34 million quota was full in 10 minutes.  Eligible recipients can start spending on 25 January.  Sources:  The Nation Bangkok Post
  • At Fitch Ratings’ Credit Outlook Asia Pacific 2021 Webinar, Stephen Schwartz, Head of Sovereign Rating for Asia Pacific said that the recurring pandemic outbreak has wrecked tourism, which has severely affected Thailand and The Philippines.  While Thailand has loads of buffer in public finance (ie: low public debt to GDP), Schwartz said “its near-term growth prospect is dim” primarily because of its high reliance on international tourists.  To aggravate matters, Thailand is also a “poster child for middle-income trap”.  Joanne Chau, Citigroup’s chief economist, contended that Thailand’s recovery is challenging in part because the government’s stimulus help has been “conservative”. 
  • Fitch has downgraded its sovereign rating for the Thai economy to BBB+/Stable since last year, following indications of political instability.  Overall, Fitch forecasted that that Thai economy will contract by -6.3 percent in 2020 and expand by +3.9 percent in 2021.  Thailand is unlikely to experience a V-Shape given that its services sector, including tourism, will recover slowly due to prolonged restrictions and movement.  For Asia Pacific, Fitch maintains a stable outlook and is optimistic on a rebound that will outperform global growth, starting from 2021.     Source:  Bangkok Post, Fitch Ratings’ Credit Outlook Asia Pacific 2021 Webinar
  • The Elite Flexible One scheme aimed at boosting condo sales received tepid response in the early stage, while a rise in membership is expected to start in March.  The Elite Flexible One scheme, launched on 1 Jan, offers a 500,000 Baht membership with a 5-year multiple-entry visa for members who purchase properties worth 10 million Baht in Thailand.  Its target group is Chinese, although another surge of pandemic outbreak could dampen sentiment.  Source: Bangkok Post
  • Tisco Bank expects non-performing loan ratio to reach 3-3.5 percent of its total outstanding loan this year if there is a third wave of COVID-19 outbreak.  Already, Tisco’s gross NPL ratio is at 2.5 percent at the end of 2020.   Source:  Bangkok Post
The Australian Embassy Bangkok
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