From his dusty Bangkok pawnshop, where gold deposits are still recorded in heavy wooden ledgers, Danai Tangvatanangkoon has had a ringside seat to decades of Thai economic crises.

But since opening his business in 1989, nothing compares to the current crunch, he said, with forfeited power tools and watches stacking up as the economy crumbles under a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the deadliest yet to hit Thailand.

“People don’t have anything left to pawn. Our sales are even worse than the Tom Yum Kung crisis,” he said of the 1997 financial meltdown, which wiped out the savings of millions of Thais before spinning out across Southeast Asia.

“At least then people still had their jobs … now they have nothing.”

Last month the Bank of Thailand slashed its 2021 GDP growth forecast from 3.0 to 1.8 per cent and the 2022 outlook by nearly a percentage point, forecasting an absence of tourists as the virus continues to spread.

That estimate now looks optimistic in a country where just over 5 per cent of the 70 million population has been fully vaccinated, leaving the government of Prayuth Chan-o-cha struggling to bat down the pandemic while dealing with public anger over the slow vaccination roll-out.

Covid-19 cases are surging to unprecedented levels, topping 11,000 daily infections for the first time over the weekend. On Tuesday, Thailand reported 11,305 cases and 80 deaths, as health officials prepare for the caseload to double by early August.

Bangkok has essentially been closed down since early this month while domestic flights have been suspended and city checkpoints ramped up to prevent all but essential travel from the capital.

This has crushed the economic activity which had flickered back to life between the end of last year and April and left an untold number of informal sector workers – from fruit vendors to trinket sellers to masseuses – out of work. Household debt has surged to a dangerous 90 per cent of GDP.

To turn the corner, Prayuth pledged to reopen the country in October. But that now looks unlikely.

“This could mean a V-shape, or even a U-shape recovery that we see in other countries with rapid recovery after vaccination, is still a far-fetched dream,” said Pavida Pananond, an associate professor in the Department of International Business at Thammasat University.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here