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With just a few days remaining before 30th Prime Minister of Thailand celebrates his 60th day in office (November 5th) a recent survey by one of Thailand’s leading mainstream media has come out to state that more than 60% of those it surveyed wants Srettha Thavisin to prioritize addressing the economic and living standards before tackling political and other structural problems the country is facing.
Srettha, who was sworn in as the Prime Minister on September 5, 2023, by His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn has been trying to tackle many of the issues and has managed to lower the prices of electricity, diesel and within the next few days prices of Octane 91 and Octane 95 gasoline would be lowered by as much as 2.50 and 1.00 Baht per liter respectively.
The survey that was undertaken from October 1 until October 31st saw as many as 42,848 people participate and was a reflection of all regions across the country.
The online survey, in which more males participated than females, showed that 60.2% of the who participated wanted Srettha to tackle the issue of economic and financial problems facing the people.
Out of the 42,848 participants, 63.7% were male, 33.2% were female, and 3.1% chose not to disclose their gender. The majority of the participants fell into the 51 and above age group (35.8%), followed by the 31-40 age group (22.7%), the 41-50 age group (20.1%), the 21-30 age group (16.9%), and the 18-20 age group (4.5%).
In terms of education levels, the majority of participants had education levels lower than a bachelor’s degree (51.2%). The largest occupational groups included office employees (25.3%), sellers and shop owners (19%), civil servants (17.5%), other professions (16.7%), general employees (10%), students (6%), and farmers (5.5%).
Regarding monthly income, most participants earned between 10,000-20,000 baht (23.5%), followed by those making no more than 10,000 baht per month (20%), more than 50,000 baht per month (19.3%), and between 20,000-30,000 baht per month (17%). The majority of participants were from Bangkok (29.3%) and Chiang Mai (4.8%), while the rest represented less than 4% each.
As for the economic and financial problems facing the people, those participated expressed a desire for the government to reduce water, electricity, and oil prices (25.4%), lower household and public debts (20.6%), address agricultural issues (16.9%), implement the 10,000 Baht handout (15.6%), increase the daily minimum wage and starting wage for graduates (15.1%), and other measures (6.3%).
The 10,000 Baht digital wallet handout and the raising of the minimum wages continue to remain in limbo as the government has yet to make a decision on these 2 issues for the time being.
The poll results indicate that the respondents are giving importance to economic and social problems especially issues of reducing living expenses such as water, electricity, gas, as well as issues of solving debt problems.
Thailand’s household debts, according to Bank of Thailand (BoT) are in excess 16 trillion Baht or about 90.6% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), with the BoT looking to lower it to 80% of the GDP in the near future.
This high level of debts has created a situation which has pushed down consumption, a key component in driving the economy, and the latest data released by the BoT for the month of September showed that private consumption continues to remain weak.
“Private consumption expanded at a slower rate of +6.3% year-on-year (YoY) and declined by -0.5% vs. August. Looking at the details, falls in non-durables (-1.0% month-on-month (MoM), seasonally adjusted) and semi-durables (-0.9% MoM, seasonally adjusted) contributed to a net reduction in consumer spending in Sept while services spending (+0.7% MoM, seasonally adjusted) remained a bright spot thanks to continued recovery in the tourism sector,” Methas Rattanasorn, economist at Tisco Securities said in a note to clients earlier this week.
Pipat Luengnaruemitchai, economist at Phatra Securities says that private investment indicators also declined, primarily due to slowdowns in the construction materials index (-4.8% month-on-month seasonally adjusted) and newly registered motor vehicles for investment (-1.5% MoM seasonally adjusted), as well as reduced sales of domestic machinery. This decline was consistent with the 6.1% contraction in the manufacturing production index. Additionally, investment slowed down due to a decrease in construction permits for housing and commercial purposes, indicating an overall weakening trend in the domestic economy.
Equity Market Impact
The slowing economy has also taken a toll on the local equity markets, which has seen most of the shares that got listed on the stock market latterly have been performing poorly.
The poor economic outlook as prompted the composite SET Index to dip by as much as 18.85% so far this year, making it among the worst performing stock markets in Asia.
Out of the 37 stocks that have been listed on the local stock market since the start of this year, only about 18 have managed to fall below their initial public offering (IPO) price.
The 37th stock to list on the local bourse was Safe Fertility Group Plc (SAFE) that listed yesterday and on the 1st day of its trade it ended the day down 15.24% or 3.20 Baht to 17.80 Baht from the IPO price of 21 Baht a share. The other 17 worse performing have all been ever since the May 14th election results.