Grant Thornton’s International Business Report (IBR) findings for H1 2022 show somewhat decreased levels of optimism among the global, regional, and Thai-based business communities as they look ahead to the coming 12-month period. Rising energy costs are among the key issues behind this decline, with inflation and supply shortages also posing challenges for the private sector at a time when many had expected the post-pandemic economic recovery to accelerate.
These and other findings are drawn from our biannual survey of 10,000 mid-market businesses, in addition to more than 100 interviews with company leaders across industries. Taken together, the data gathered from these sources provides an illuminating glimpse into the mindset of the business community both in Thailand and elsewhere. A selection of data points, paired with summary analysis, is included below.
Global business optimism among mid-market businesses fell to 64% in H1 2022, a 6 percentage point (pp) drop from H2 2021. Also falling were export sentiment (down 1pp to 44%) and overall profitability (down 3pp to 54%).
At the same time, concerns increased regarding a number of business constraints. Key among these were general economic uncertainty (a source of worry among 63% of respondents), and rising energy costs (62%). 50% of respondents likewise indicated significant levels of concern about a shortage of finance, 55% about regulations and red tape, and 56% about the availability of skilled workers as a likely constraint to growth.
Though discouraging, these numbers are in large part the consequence of events taking place outside the business community. The Russia-Ukraine conflict is negatively affecting both energy and trade, for example, while the current inflation is an unfortunate but expected byproduct of pandemic-related subsidies. The long-awaited pandemic recovery period is still on its way, though it will get off to a later start than previously expected.
ASEAN and Thailand
Although similar pressures are affecting Southeast Asian businesses, IBR scores from the region generally show a more positive outlook. 72% of IBR respondents across ASEAN indicate a sentiment of overall optimism moving forward, while fully 67% expect their organisations to increase investment in technology over the coming 12-month period. Optimistic projections on investment in staff skills (62%) is likewise higher than global averages.
Still, only 50% of regional mid-market businesses anticipate higher investment in plant and machinery – likely as a result of supply-side tension and cost-push inflation in the global economy.
In Thailand, 58% of respondents indicated a sense of economic optimism moving forward, with 64% anticipating an increase in exports. Just 30% of business leaders in Thailand anticipate having significant difficulty finding skilled personnel over the coming period, and 33% see regulations and red tape as a major issue.
Energy costs and general economic uncertainty remain real concerns, however, with 60% and 61% of respondents highlighting these issues, respectively. These issues, together with inflation and material shortages, could delay Thailand’s economic recovery further, despite the increasing traveller numbers for the country. Businesses should plan accordingly, and stay ready to adapt to future developments, as they look ahead to 2023.
Grant Thornton is a leading business advisory firm in Thailand, offering Audit and Assurance, Talent Acquisition Management and Executive Recruitment, Advisory, Business Consulting, Tax and Legal Consulting, Japanese Business Practice Consulting, Business Process Outsourcing, and Business Risk Services.