Bangkok candidate for the main opposition party reminds voters that this election is about the economy and why change must come. Juthaphon Keturathorn calls for the public to make sure Pheu Thai gets 300 seats in the new parliament after the May 7th General Election to deal with the economic crisis and inertia facing Thailand as it falls behind other countries.

A Pheu Thai candidate in central Bangkok has called on voters to come out and help elect at least 300 MPs for the main opposition party in order to save the stuttering Thai economy. Juthaphon Keturathorn said that Thailand may be facing a technical recession and that the country’s income per capita for the last two years from 2020 until the end of 2022 has actually fallen by 2% leaving it trailing significantly behind other countries in Asia.  

Pheu Thai candidate Juthaphon Keturathorn who is standing in central Bangkok called on voters to deliver 300 MPs for her party in order to tackle the sputtering economy with her party’s pro-growth, bigger borrowing and higher income policies.

A Pheu Thai candidate for the General Election in central Bangkok has urged the public to get out and vote in the forthcoming General Election in order to bring an end to Thailand’s lacklustre economic performance in the last eight years under General Prayut Chan ocha.

Juthaphon Keturathorn is standing for election in the Bangrak, Sathorn and Pathumwan areas of the capital and has highlighted the stark fact that Thailand’s per capita income has actually fallen back over the last two years since the pandemic crisis.

Per capita income in Thailand has fallen by 2% since 2020, says a Thai candidate in central Bangkok. Current coalition has been an economic failure

In 2020, per capita income in Thailand was $7,200 while in 2022 the figure had fallen to $7,069 or a fall of just under 2%.

The economic data for the current coalition government which came to power in 2019 makes particularly grim reading when Thailand is compared to other countries in Asia notably South Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia.

The economic malaise which has taken hold of the country, especially since 2018, is widely felt and is the reason why the Pheu Thai Party and the Move Forward Party are currently surging in the polls as Thai voters seek to punish the outgoing government for the country’s lack of economic growth and widespread corruption.

Corruption and the role of the unelected Senate in electing the next PM to be General Election issues

Pheu Thai is on track to win the election although the scale of the victory will be critical given that the upper house of 250 senators has a role in selecting the next prime minister with each senator having a vote until June 2024.

Pheu Thai plans big spending, high borrowing, pro-growth policy with a ฿600 daily minimum wage

The main opposition party’s pro-growth policy is based on increased government spending funded through higher borrowing or deficits.

The party also proposes a higher minimum wage of ฿600 per day for workers by 2027, something which has galvanised voters in every part of the country since it was introduced in early December.

War erupts over Pheu Thai’s ฿600 minimum wage plan with the economy as the key election issue

On Wednesday, Ms Juthaphon, like other Pheu Thai candidates running for election in 75 provinces across Thailand for the just confirmed May 7th General Election, issued a call to arms to voters.

She urged them to think about the economy and seek to ensure that the Pheu Thai Party is returned to the House of Representatives with at least 300 MPs, a figure recently cited by party leader Cholnan Srikaew as the number required to ensure that the unelected Thai Senate does not attempt to override the will of the people after the poll on the basis of moral right.

Fear of technical recession with exports suffering from sluggish demand and facing competition from China, economists remain sanguine about 2023

Ms Juthaphon raised the rising spectre of a technical recession in the opening three months of 2023 following a seasonally adjusted GDP contraction of 1.5% in the last quarter of 2022 for which new and disturbing figures continue to emerge.

The shocking reversal of economic fortune occurred despite the arrival of 5.5 million foreign tourists in the last three months of 2022.

It was driven by a 10.5% fall in exports year on year together with an 8% decline in government spending as the Ministry of Finance reined in the public purse.

Many economists, this week, however, remained sanguine about the full year ahead in 2023.

They insisted that the kingdom’s economy can grow by up to 3.7% this year aided by the reopening of China to trade and an increased number of foreign tourist arrivals especially from China with government projections currently suggesting up to 30 million arrivals in 2023, a 269% increase on 2022.

But there is also a significant downside to Thailand’s trade with China.

China is Thailand’s second-largest export market accounting for 14% of its outgoing shipments. 

However, it is also increasingly a competitor as its industries take advantage of easier access to the ASEAN market under the new Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which is a growing cause of concern to the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI).

Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) calls out government about the volatility of the Thai baht and elevated electricity and energy costs in the country

At the same time, the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) is warning the Thai government that geopolitical instability, a highly volatile Thai baht and elevated energy costs for the manufacturing industry are hurting Thailand’s manufacturers and exporters at this time.

The baht has careered from a low of ฿38.18 against the dollar in mid-October to a high of ฿32.65 this month, a variation of 14.5% over 6 months.

The federation would like to see a stabilised value for the Thai currency at something like ฿34 to the US dollar.

The Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) has also expressed deep concern about the lower level of investment in Thailand in the last year at 15% of GDP compared to 30 to 35% in past years.

The country’s economy is increasingly seen as the sick man of Asia with intractable problems like a sharp demographic challenge within the workforce with 30% of the population projected to be over 65 by 2050 from just 13% in 2020.

The figure is even more alarming when the government’s own figures suggest that the number of people working in the economy under 60 years of age will be just half what it is now by 2040.

The country is also facing a rising private debt mountain as struggling firms and households attempt to make ends meet due to a lack of growth and opportunity in the economy over the past decade.

Longer term, over the past decades, Thailand has not done well but is falling behind even more in recent years compared to other countries in the region

For long-term planners, the situation is clear but is not good news. Thailand has fallen into the middle-income trap and is failing in its efforts to develop into a high-income economy.

The country’s paltry growth rates with only 2.2% in 2019, a contraction of 6.1% in 2020, a 1.5% figure in 2021 and last year’s adjusted growth rate of 2.6% compare unfavourably to its neighbours.

Malaysia’s economy in 2022 grew by 8.7% with Vietnam at 8% and the Philippines at 7.8%. Even Singapore, a wealthy first-world economy with its own demographic problem, managed to grow by 3.6% last year.

The lack of progress in Thailand’s economy can be seen from its progress in per capita income over the last sixty-three years when compared directly with South Korea and Malaysia.

Recession should set off an alarm for those in charge

In 1960, Thailand’s per capita income was 66% of that seen in South Korea. By the end of 2022, this had fallen to 22.7% with South Koreans earning an average of $33,592 per annum. 

The situation is different when it comes to Malaysia.

Thailand’s per capita income was 42.4% of that seen in Malaysia in 1960. By 2022, that had risen to 54% although Malaysia has become a high-income economy with a per capita income of $13,108 last year compared to just $7,069 for Thailand.

Ms Jutaphon said that if Thailand does fall into a technical recession when figures are released for this current quarter, it should set off alarm bells at the highest levels about the failure of the kingdom’s economic policies.

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