If the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) wants to once again take to the street to protest against “evil capitalism,” the time to do so is now.
In 2019, Forbes Thailand listed the ten richest in the country at 3.46 trillion baht in wealth, that’s 21% of Thailand’s entire economy.
The 2016 article by Thai Publica paints this picture. (Note: this is the latest available statistics.)
In 2014, Thailand had a workforce of around 38.8 million. Only 10.3 million people were registered for income tax. However, just four million actually qualified to pay income tax. You must have a net income of at least 150,000 baht per year to pay income tax.
This means, 34.8 million Thais, or nearly 90% of the workforce, don’t even make 12,500 baht per month.
Six years since, has the economy and the economic gap gotten worse or better?
The shape of things
An L-shaped recovery is a steep economic decline followed by a slow recovery. A V-shaped recovery is a quick decline, followed by a speedy recovery. A U-shaped recovery is a decline followed by a recovery slower than V but faster than L.
With the way the Thai economy is going, none of the above letters apply. We are heading towards the K-shaped economy, with one leg kicks upward, while the other points downward.
In the K-shaped economy, one segment of society reaps ever-growing economic benefits, which creates an ever-expanding gap between them and everyone else, who plunges deeper into poverty.
Welcome to K-shaped Thailand
The article by Shawn Crispin, published 13 December 2019 in Asia Times, explains the relationship between the Prayut Chan-o-cha government and Thailand’s five wealthiest families.
Asia Times refers to the “five families” as the “founding clans” of CP Group, ThaiBev, Boonrawd, King Power, and the Central Group.
The article said:
“When Thailand’s military-aligned Palang Pracharat Party (PPRP) sought to build an election campaign war chest, party stalwarts organized a Chinese-style dinner for its closest big business allies.
The soirée attracted a who’s who of the Thai business elite, with A-list representatives from Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group, ThaiBev, King Power Group, Boonrawd Brewery, Central Group, among others, at the top tables, according to news reports at the time.
The banquet raised 622 million baht (US$22 million) for the new party’s coffers, corporate donations the Election Commission subsequently ruled were above board and not in violation of electoral rules or regulations.”
Asia Times also cited the investment bank Credit Suisse, which in late 2018 put Thailand as the “most unequal” economy in the world.
“The report claimed that 67% percent of the nation’s wealth is held by 1% of the population in 2018, rising rapidly from 58% in 2016.”
Welcome to Elysium
The 2013 Matt Damon film, Elysium, wasn’t a particularly good movie. But its satirical premise illustrates the K-shaped economy the world (not just Thailand, but especially Thailand) is heading.
The 1% (the wealthy class) lives high-and-might in the sky. The 99% (everyone else) lives in the impoverished earth. The wealth gap is as wide as the space between the dusty earth and the floating Elysium in outer space, a human-made paradise.
But real life isn’t a Hollywood movie. Matt Damon isn’t going to save us. Instead, numbers speak the truth, and the truth is the reality we see everyday. The wealth gap in Thailand is ever-widening. COVID-19 or economic recession notwithstanding, the wealthy keep getting wealthier, while the poor are kept as a charity case begging for crumbs.
“Here, 5,000 baht. There, 3,000 baht. And you had better be grateful.”
This is the rule of the generals and the economic elites.
The current government did not invent this system of inequality, but they perpetuate it. The systematic inequality has been decades in the marking and creates double-standard and injustice in society.
Meanwhile, the media doesn’t talk about it enough, because one way or another, the five families either own or give advertising money to the media.