Thailand’s richest man, Dhanin Chearavanont, has warned that the Thai economy won’t survive a prolonged virus crisis. He has called for tourism to be opened up and the country marketed as a ‘safe haven’ from the disease due to an extraordinarily fortunate health outcome. Mr Dhanin also predicts that the day of large corporate offices is gone and that the government should raise ฿3 trillion on a 30 year bond for soft loans to small and medium scale businesses urgently to prevent mass unemployment.
Thailand’s richest man is calling for the Thai government to open up Thailand for tourism quickly and to brand itself as a ‘safe haven’ from the Covid 19 virus. He is also warning that the Thai economy will not survive a slow return to normal until a vaccine is found and distributed. He says that the government must be prepared to take risks.
Thailand’s richest man and the Chairman of one of the country’s largest conglomerates has called on the government to move faster to ease the lockdown and to rapidly open up the kingdom again to international tourism.
Dhanin Chearavanont, Chairman of the Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group, has indicated that the government must be prepared to take a ‘risk’ in dealing with this crisis of enormous proportions and which is also being faced by other countries around the world.
Time for Thailand to switch from ‘quantity to quality’ in its tourism marketing around the world
Mr Dhanin said on Thursday that now is the time for Thailand to switch from ‘quantity to quality’ in terms of tourism.
He singled out Thailand’s position as a country with one of the lowest impacts from the coronavirus despite it being the first country to report a case outside China to the World Health Organisation in late January of this year.
The kingdom has seen only 56 deaths from the disease with just over 3,000 infections.
On Wednesday, it reported zero infections while this Thursday, the figure was one. This was a recently arrived traveller from Phuket who tested positive in Chiang Mai.
Lockdown and attendant measures are unsustainable and costing Thai people ฿16 billion per day
The CP Chairman believes that current lockdown measures are simply unsustainable.
Speaking with the Bangkok Post newspaper, he said: ‘Thailand’s economic losses from the lockdown are estimated to be at ฿16 billion per day or almost ฿500 billion per month. A longer lockdown will cost us more and more.’
Thailand first introduced lockdown measures in early March and extended them with the closure of business premises at the end of that month.
A State of Emergency, announced on March 26th, followed. Then, a 10 pm to 4 am curfew was introduced a week later.
Reports of an end to the State of Emergency on May 31st as key agencies suggest it will not be extended
There are growing reports that the State of Emergency may come to an end at the end of May.
On Monday, the secretary-general of the National Security Council, General Somsak Roongsita, revealed that the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) have been monitoring the situation.
‘Both agencies were quite satisfied with the overall public health and safety situations’, he said. He disclosed that the research notes the lower levels of infection being recorded and high levels of awareness among the public.
‘It is highly likely that the emergency decree will not be extended after May 31,’ he concluded.
Not feasible to wait for a vaccine – ‘The economy won’t survive that long’ says veteran business leader
Mr Dhanin, on Thursday, said it was simply not feasible for Thailand to wait for a vaccine to be developed and distributed worldwide in sufficient numbers.
‘We can’t wait until a vaccine is developed and produced in sufficient quantity to roll out to the entire population,’ he warned. ‘The economy won’t survive that long.’
However, just today, Dr Yong Poovorawan, one of Thailand’s top experts and the Head of Chulalongkorn University’s Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology emphasised that businesses and the Thai public must stick to the new normal if a second wave of the infection is to be avoided.
Tycoon was one of 20 invited by the PM to make their voices heard on the way forward at this critical time
The tycoon, who is one of the 20 top business executives invited by Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha to make submissions on how Thailand can move forward in recent weeks, has expressed particular concern about the tourism industry.
Figures from last year suggest that Thailand’s tourism sector officially accounts for 11 to 12% of GDP but is responsible for an ever-larger percentage of employment in the kingdom especially if indirect revenue streams and the informal sector are looked at.
Thailand must market itself as a safe destination for tourists and especially wealthier people who can pay
Mr Dhanin urged the government to open up the tourism sector and to promote Thailand as a safe destination for incoming tourists particular those with wealth who can pay a premium.
‘The number of infection and death cases in Thailand is very low compared with other countries, even though our lockdown began later,’ he said. ‘There were also a large number of Chinese tourists in the country.’
Tourism Minister proposed a tourism levy this week to include health insurance and coverage of Covid 19
Earlier in the week, Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn proposed a new tourist levy to include health insurance in Thailand including coverage for Covid 19 related illness.
The CP Chairman’s vision, however, appears to be more targeted at the higher end of the tourist market.
1 million quality tourists equal to 5 million travellers
Mr Dhanin suggested that 1 million wealthy tourists holidaying in Thailand would be at least the equivalent of 5 million travellers who spend less.
He said the Thai government must promote Thailand as a ‘safe haven’ for holidaymakers with money to spend.
He also suggested that the kingdom must highlight its old fashioned attractions such as a friendly welcome as well as its high-quality infrastructure geared to tourists. ‘Thailand is already well-known for its hospitality, warmth, and friendliness, he pointed out.
‘We have five-star hotels and resorts, we also have five-star hospitals and the best doctors,’ he enthused. ‘If we can make rich people feel confident that staying in Thailand is safer than their own countries then they will come. If we begin today, we can become a leader in this market,’ Mr Dhanin pronounced.
Dhanin is Thailand’s richest man
Dhanin Chearavanont is a multi-billionaire and the Chairman of the Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group which, while owning conglomerates in China and Japan, also owns many top firms in Thailand including the hugely successful 7/11 Chain and True Corporation.
The CP Group employs hundreds of thousands of people in Thailand and worldwide.
This year, the 81-year-old was listed by the influential magazine Forbes as the country’s richest man
Thailand’s success may be linked to sunlight
There is still some mystery as to why Thailand, despite its proximity to China and the large numbers of Chinese tourists who arrived here late last year and earlier this year from Wuhan, the source of the virus originally, has been spared the savage effects seen in Europe and the United States from Covid 19.
One theory is that it is due to sunlight.
US scientists showed in April that sunlight kills the disease in seconds when it is external to the body and exposed.
It is also becoming apparent, according to research this week, that a lack of vitamin D is a key characteristic of those who have succumbed to its effects on the body.
The links between prolonged sunlight and vitamin D in human beings are well established.
Business leader says resistance to making controversial decisions must be overcome and that risks must be taken in any endeavour
On Monday, Mr Dhanin urged the government to act and acknowledged that there will be some resistance to such a proposal and indeed risk.
But he argued that risks must be taken.
‘There is always a risk. You walk out of your home to go to work today, you might get hit by a car. But you still have to go out because you have to work and earn a living,’ he declared.
Covid 19 spells the end of large office workspaces
The top businessman also predicted that the Covid 19 emergency may spark the end of large offices and headquarters.
It comes as a growing number of leading firms worldwide have acknowledged that they will not force their workers back to the office when the virus emergency is over.
Mr Dhanin feels that this spells smaller offices in the future for companies and that this will consequently impact the property market.
He forecast that many large office complexes in Bangkok will be converted into condominiums or even hotels in the future.
Proposes a ฿3 trillion 30 year government bond to help fund small and medium-sized business loans
He pointed out, however, that the government still has a role to play even if it opens up the tourism sector and pushes Thailand to get back to work.
He suggested that many firms, both large and small, are already experiencing a lack of liquidity because of this economic disaster.
He called on the government to issue a 30-year bond to finance a programme of soft loans aimed at small and medium-sized concerns.
He envisaged a larger package than the ฿1.9 billion which the government is working towards made up of $1 trillion in borrowing to fund payment supports and a range of easy loans. He has previously expressed support for this move.
Mr Dhanin today, however, called for a $3 trillion support programme aimed at small and medium-sized Thai firms to provide soft loans.
‘I think three trillion baht would be enough to prevent mass unemployment,’ Mr Dhanin said. ‘Many businesses are struggling to survive because they don’t have the liquidity they need to operate.’