No one expected that the year 2020 would start off with a global pandemic and how COVID-19 pandemic would effect Thailand’s economy. It all started with the first patients with the deadly coronavirus infection from China’s Hubei province.
The wildlife market in the province’s capital city of Wuhan has been named as the source of the infection.
The highly contagious virus managed to rapidly spread all around the world, killing hundreds of thousands while over 6 million have tested positive globally.
Without a vaccine or specifically tailored effective treatment, the only known way of fighting the spread of the virus is social distancing. There have been lots of theories about the spread of the virus but after more than 2 months of observation, we know that without any social distancing measures in place, one infected person can transmit the virus to roughly 3 others. This is what makes the COVID-19 pandemic a great threat to global security.
The virus is costing the world human lives but it also is affecting the global economy. The growth forecasts have been cramped as the world braces for the worst recession since the Great Depression. Millions of people have already lost their jobs in different nations. Some countries afford to pay unemployment benefits to their citizens during this unprecedented crisis. However, others are struggling to provide the population with food and essentials during the pandemic.
COVID-19 pandemic in Thailand
As a result of differences between the economic development among various countries, approaches to re-opening the economy significantly differ. Nations that can afford to have their economies shut down are not in a hurry to open up for business. On the other hand, less fortunate nations are doing their best to re-open as fast as possible.
Located in Asia, Thailand was heavily hit by the coronavirus pandemic just like others in the region. It was one of the first countries to experience a sharp increase in the number of coronavirus cases. However, with the effective regulations introduced by the government in time, the nation managed to flatten the curve and practically stop the spread of the virus.
Currently, the country has just over 3 thousand cases of the novel coronavirus infection. Fortunately, the number is increasing very slowly, pointing towards the absence of community transmission. For a country of more than 69 million people, this number is quite low. However, the economy of Thailand is still struggling a lot.
The nation is highly dependent on tourism and income from international visitors. It has been estimated that the tourism industry makes up roughly 13-14% of the country’s economy. Moreover, 1 in 6 people is employed in this sector.
Curb the spread of illegal businesses
From the very beginning of the pandemic, the infection took a toll on Thailand’s financial stability as Chinese visitors were banned from entering the country. Later on, all international visitors started avoiding Thailand or any international travel amid confusion over the official travel advice. In the end, the country like many others globally closed its borders for international visitors in efforts to combat the import of coronavirus infections from abroad.
Besides the tourism industry, the country went under unprecedented lockdown for almost 2 months. Almost all non-essential businesses were closed while hundreds of thousands lost their jobs and incomes. The Thai economy is an emerging market, still a part of the developing world.
Therefore, in order to survive, it needs to open for business as soon as possible. The tourism industry will take some time to recover as international travel remains a controversial issue. Yet, there are a number of things the Thai government can do to safely re-open the economy and potentially boost some industries.
Thailand has always been a place with lots of illegal business activities, particularly in the tourism industry. However, with the re-opening of the economy, there is a risk of such activities increasing at a rapid rate. Physical gambling is outlawed in the nation by the act adopted back in 1935. However, huge numbers still enjoy online live casino games offered by overseas providers.
Underground illegal gambling activities
The country now stands at a risk of facing a growing number of underground illegal gambling activities. The government is not likely to allow gambling due to the cultural sensitivity regarding the issue. However, it should think about completely legalizing online gambling to benefit from its revenues. Otherwise, illegal gambling activities are rather harmful to the country’s economy. It is not getting any tax income from them while suffering from the flows of illegal money.
Besides gambling, other sectors are also at risk of soaring rates of illegal activities. The tourism industry which will remain highly restricted in the nearest future could likely be the most affected one. A number of unauthorized entities have already been offering suspicious, unlicensed, and potentially dangerous services to travelers. With the coronavirus posing as an obstacle, they are expected to become more active than ever before.
Besides the negative economic impact such activities will have on the tourism industry, it also is a threat to national security. Up until the launch of a successful vaccine, every single violation of social distancing rules can result in new waves of the infection.
Regulating prices on essential goods
Thailand has a positive trade balance, meaning that the country exports more than it imports. However, the coronavirus pandemic is changing the global supply chain, especially when it comes to food. Many suggest that the global food supply chain needs a crucial reboot to remain operational, otherwise, the prices will shift disproportionately around the world. Some nations might face shortages of particular essential goods while others will witness huge reserves of food going off due to the low demand.
Being a developing economy where poverty and social exclusion are still common, Thailand should do its best to freeze prices on essential goods. Many countries have already done the same by negotiating with the private sector. The re-opening of the economy will come at a price of changing prices and the affordability of food and other essentials should not be under a threat.
Ensuring that businesses and individuals follow regulations
The novel coronavirus pandemic is far from ending. Despite the fact that a range of countries, including Thailand, are lifting regulations, the threat of a new community outbreak remains in place. Therefore, in the process of re-opening the economy, both businesses and individuals should show high social responsibility and follow government advice on social distancing.
Many might follow the rules but some will most certainly avoid them. This could be catastrophic for the nation. Therefore, the government should effectively regulate and control the situation in this regard. Common checks and contentious informational campaigns will be vital for keeping the nation safe as it adjusts to the new reality.