Thailand: Pheu Thai Pro-Business Reform, Cannabis, LGBTQ & Gaming Legislation, and Fintech Market Study Optimism - E404

· Podcast Episodes English,Thailand,VC and Angels,Southeast Asia


“I think it's a good strategy. You want to go for the non-consensus play. You can't win if you're doing what everyone else is doing. You have to force a choice. You can't play the comparison game and it's true for startups. It's true for governments and tourism as well. They're forcing a choice. It's not a comparison anymore because it's so binary, one way or the other. If Thailand pushes more in this direction, maybe not specifically decriminalizing more drugs, but just doing things very differently from neighboring countries that are unexpected. I think that's how they win. That's also what we advise our startups when we invest: do something different and play the other game.” - Wing Vasiksiri

“The current plan is that they’re trying to ban the recreational use of marijuana by the end of 2024. So by the end of this year, it prohibits recreational marijuana use, but it’ll also allow medical purposes for marijuana. I am very skeptical that this happens because it's very difficult to put the genie back in the bottle. There are also a lot of people, a lot of stakeholders who are very clearly benefiting from this all throughout the supply chain, and then with the push to tourism, I think that this is a big thing that's attracting tourists to enter the country and come to Thailand. So, I think I'm quite skeptical that it's going to pass. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out over the next couple of months.” - Wing Vasiksir

“If you're just thinking about fintech as a whole, there are a couple of categories that are interesting for consumer fintech: banking, lending, trading, crypto, and insurance. The way I think about FinTech is it comes in waves. The first wave, typically when a technology market emerges, is usually lending. This is usually the most underserved need, like access to a financial infrastructure and markets. The second is payments remittance, and foreign exchanges. Southeast Asia is still very much in this wave as is Thailand. From there, you have insurance and then more like fundamental infrastructure, like open banking. One of the biggest takeaways is that Thailand has a very strong adoption of online payments, ranking fourth globally by transaction value of real-time payments.” - Wing Vasiksiri

Wing Vasiksiri, General Partner of WV, and Jeremy Au discussed three main points:

1. Pheu Thai Pro-Business Reform: Wing and Jeremy discussed the new Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin's ambitious plans to stimulate the economy through pro-business reforms. The administration has decided to focus on helping and investing in the tourism sector to recover, from a pre-pandemic 19.3% of GDP to a potential 30% of GDP in 2030. They debated whether this is a strategic or differentiated sector to invest in, vs. Vietnam's focus on China + 1 manufacturing and Singapore's focus on finance and trade. They also discussed the electoral promise to stimulate the economy by distributing 10,000 Thai baht to every citizen, and the political pressure on the Bank of Thailand to lower interest rates. They discussed Thailand's GDP forecast, and whether the country would be able to escape the middle-income trap.

2. Cannabis, LGBTQ & Gaming Legislation: Wing and Jeremy discussed the legislative push to roll back the legalization of weed and the prior administration's distribution of 1 million cannabis plants to households. Wing expressed skepticism about the complete rollback of cannabis decriminalization, given its popularity, integration into the economic retail landscape, and its attraction as a tourism booster. They also discussed how 96.6% of public support for same-sex marriage is driving LGBTQ legal reforms and the parallels with Taiwan. They also touched on the push towards legalizing gaming casinos to attract foreign investment with a 17% tax on gross gaming revenue (one of the lowest tax regimes in the region) and further boost tourism receipts.

3. Fintech Market Study Optimism: Wing shared about WV's recent market study on Thailand's financial tech sector (which is ranked 4th globally in transaction value of real-time payments), thus indicating a robust digital payments infrastructure and entrepreneurial optimism. They also discussed the broader fintech landscape, including the country’s debate on whether the consumer handout stimulus should incorporate blockchain technology (vs. existing mobile wallets), as well as the potential issuance of virtual banking licenses (despite challenges such as high minimum capital requirements).

Jeremy and Wing also talked about the underreported issue of Bangkok’s poor air quality, the importance of the national soft power strategy, and how the various reforms are synergistic with each other.

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(01:27) Jeremy Au:

Hey, Wing, excited to have you.

(01:28) Wing Vasiksiri:

Yeah. Hey, Jeremy. Thanks for having me back on. Excited to continue our chat from from last time.

(01:34) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. And I think the last time around that we discussed, we really talked about thailand and, of the startup ecosystem about why you're optimistic that despite the past, ten years of falling behind the peers, I think you think that now is an interesting time to see. And it's been interesting because over the past couple of months we've definitely seen a lot of news come out of Thailand. So we wanted to kind of discuss a bit about it and hear your point of view, but also how you think impacts the tech sector as well. For you, when you think about the past few months, what do you think has been the biggest moves you think has happened?

(02:02) Wing Vasiksiri:

Yeah, so I guess from my perspective the biggest changes we're seeing in Thailand that's exciting to talk about is the new administration. We you know, we have a new prime minister and some of the initiatives that he's been talking about, everything involving tourism, trying to stimulate the economy through consumption, digital wallet initiative. And so I think that's kind of the main storyline that's been hitting Thailand over the last couple of months, maybe less so on the tech side, more so on the macro side, which, hopefully if he does a good job, he's going stimulate more of the tech moving forward. I guess to start, an interesting thing to maybe talk about is just the GDP forecast of Thailand in general. I think relative to Indonesia and Vietnam, we don't look like a very high growth or strong growth economy, So I think the forecasted GDP increase for Thailand is around 2.5 to 3%. I think it was 3%, and then they revised it down to about 2.5% this year. When you compare it to Indonesia, I believe the latest number is around 4%. Vietnam's at 6.5%. I think that's one of the fastest growing in the region. And Singapore, which, we all looked at as a, as a more developed market is around, I think it's less than 2% or something along those lines. So Thailand as a starting point is closer or looks more like the more developed markets in Southeast Asia, as to the, the hot markets, Indonesia so Yeah, I thought that was interesting to point out. And maybe a lot of people don't realize about this specific market.

(03:28) Jeremy Au:

Yeah. And it's interesting because, Thailand and Malaysia, both similar, right? So around the order of 5, 000 to 8, 000 GDP. I think it's kind of surprising in some ways that Thailand's GDP per capita growth or GDP growth, the rate seems to be lower, seems to be, they call it the middle income trap. I think it's been interesting because he feels like this new administration that just mentioned historically has been much more pro-business as a party. And so it's interesting to see, how the new prime minister Srettha Thavisin is thinking, or at least portraying the agenda for the government.

(03:59) Wing Vasiksiri:

Yeah, I guess from my perspective, what I see him consistently push. There's a couple of things. Actually, one thing which has not been great with the new administration that's causing some investors and businesses to lose confidence is that there's been some pretty open conflict between the prime minister and the Bank of Thailand. This is specifically in related to interest rates. So I think right now interest rates in Thailand is about 2.5%. Not terribly high, but the prime minister has come out publicly and said that Thailand's economy is in a crisis. And this is basically to pressure the Bank of Thailand to decrease the interest rate further. I think for him, he's very pro cutting interest rate to stimulate consumption in the economy, but, there's pressure against this from the Bank of Thailand saying that Hey, Thai economy is at an okay level. We're expected to grow. We don't need to cut interest rates at this point. So this public conflict hasn't been great for just confidence in general of, the back of Thailand and the prime minister's office working together. So this is one thing to, to keep an eye out on as well.

(05:03) Jeremy Au:

I mean, it's pretty common for governments and and legislations, for example, President Trump was always pressuring the fed consistently for a lower interest rate, no matter what, and I think the basic macroeconomic theory says if a lower interest rate cost of capital is lower, then investors can deploy more, people can borrow more. When people can borrow more, they can spend more, then economy goes up. It's a function of increased consumption and increased investment by businesses. Of course, historically, I think the US has benefited most from it, because, it's a global reserve currency. It gets to set the interest rates. People don't really have the alternative to holding US debt and US capital. I mean, Thailand also went through the Asian financial crisis, right? So I know a lot of central banks in Southeast Asia have always been kind of like edgy around interest rates.

(05:46) Wing Vasiksiri:

Yeah, more cautious, I think. Yeah.

(05:48) Jeremy Au:

What do you think the Bank of Thailand is thinking from their perspective? How are they thinking about it?

(05:51) Wing Vasiksiri:

I think from there and they're probably seeing moderate GDP growth, 2.5%. It's growing. We don't have very high inflation. And I think they want to, you know, the more you cut interest rates, the less you have that as a lever in times of need, where maybe you actually, the economy is doing poorly, you're starting to see some decline or, or even lower growth. It's a tool that you have, but once you go one way, it's hard to kind of flip flop back and forth between cutting, increasing, cutting, increasing. So I think from their perspective, they're trying to balance it out a bit more. And then I think from the Prime Minister's perspective, his main agenda, his main goal is probably trying to stimulate the economy so that his administration can look back and say, Hey, we had more growth when we were in power, we were able to increase consumer confidence, business confidence investments into the country. And I think this ties nicely into the earlier question you're asking, which is what are some of the main initiatives we're seeing being pushed from the new administration? There are a couple of big ones come to mind. I think that, the big overall one is like, it's clear that he wants to increase GDP. I think the path he's taking to that is big focus on tourism as, as a, as a primary one, right?

Which is a little different than some of the other markets here, it's very heavily reliant on tourism for GDP. So as a percent of GDP, I think it's around 20%, which is pretty high. So 20% of the country's GDP is from tourism. And I saw some forecast that by 2030 that this tourism sector is expected to account for 30% of Thailand's GDP. So I think there's a lot of expectation that, you know, the government administration is going to lean further into tourism and really push this. And I think we're seeing some of that, right? I think one really clear one is, Thailand stopped requiring visa for tourists from specific countries to enter. So I believe China and India, you don't need to make a visa beforehand anymore. You're able to come and enter. And this is just going to increase visitors. So it's, it's really interesting to see them kind of lean into this identity of Tourism being one of the primary growers of GDP. And then, you know, there's a lot of other stuff tangentially related to tourism with the marijuana stuff we were talking about earlier. I think that's prompted a lot of tourists to come in as well. So yeah, I think it's interesting that they're leading in very hard to this

(08:04) Jeremy Au:

So let's talk about tourism a little bit before we double click in, of course, into the cannabis side, which is, I think a lot of folks in my orbit have been also been talking about, but on the tourism side, yeah, I mean, I think that, you know, it caused this whole furor where, I think the Prime Minister, very much, it was saying that Singapore was very smart for lending the Taylor Swift exclusivity agreement, and obviously it caused this whole shit show on the Singapore side because he diplomatically had to go and argue with every single Southeast Asian country about this exclusivity agreement. And then of course, I mean, obviously in the context of the Thai Prime Minister's speech, it wasn't necessarily about Singapore, right? It was about how Thailand is up its game tourism-wise to draw these concerts in, but I just thought it was just a funny piece where it was just like we had to get the Singapore multiple ministers to speak about it. We had to get a prime minister to speak about it. I don't know. It was like a mild diplomatic incidents where, everybody in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines had to talk about the Swiftie voter electorate, frustration about having to fly to Singapore.

(08:59) Wing Vasiksiri:

How was that for Singapore actually? Do you feel like overall that was like a big success for the country, boosted a lot of things? I thought it was very smart of them to do that, you know, offer the incentives Taylor Swift to exclusively host, I think it was like six, seven shows?

(09:12) Jeremy Au:

Yeah, I mean, I think it's three major factors. One is that there are very few people like Taylor Swift that can actually pull people from the region. I mean, I listened to a concert from Jack Johnson. I was pretty much nobody flew in for this guy because nobody knows who this guy is, right? But I love the musician .

Two is I think it's like you said, the impact turned out to be roughly around 400 to 500 million dollars of top lines, you know, kind of like injection into the economy in terms of like tourism received, kind of like if you're, you don't take into account the multiply effect, you know, you take into account the fact that the government has effectively like, you know, 8% tax on consumption. So you pretty much, the government straight away made effectively like, I would say, about 30 to 40 mil, just on taxes. and then exclusively agreement was about $3 to $5 million, so then, the government already profited, I guess, technically from a tax receipt basis.

Obviously, I think it was lot of actually spillover effects into like, stimulation of the economy. I think people got excited, but also, I think, interestingly, I think the domestic voting electorate was quite happy about it. And of course, the third factor I think is underappreciated was that Singapore government actually did nationalize some of the sporting and event area used to be run by public private conglomerate, I would say a partnership, which was very focused on sports, but now it's a more directly managed by the government. So it's actually an interesting piece where the government is actually much more involved in sourcing organizers. So I always joke, like now you're like a civil servant, but you're like opening up this like itinerary and you're like, okay, you know, which K-pop star should we bring in this month? Because there's an interesting dynamic where the area where the Taylor Swift concert, costs about a couple, about a million bucks to convert it between entertainment to sports. So it's actually an interesting dynamic where you need to like, designate event months in Singapore, and then after that you put all your concerts and then you convert it to a sports format like F1 or something, so it's actually an interesting, I don't know what's the word, national policy that met tourism. So I think it's interesting to see. I think everybody in Southeast Asia is really competing for that tourism dollar as a result. It's not an easy, industry either. I think Vietnam has not had that rebound in tourism from China that they were hoping for. So that's been interesting dynamic for this tourism piece. Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the Thai side, tourism-wise?

(11:17) Wing Vasiksiri:

I guess my opinion with tourism as a general sector is, on the one hand, it makes sense because we have, speaking specifically about Thailand and maybe some of these other countries, or there's a lot of natural resources in terms of like just beauty, nature, parks, beaches that naturally will draw tourism, but these resources are not necessarily sustainable in the very, very long run, in the sense that the more people come in to enjoy these resources, tourism, it does degrade over time. Just look at if it's too crowded or just the quality of the beaches, the quality of the ocean over time, as more people come, and it's not like Hawaii where we're practicing very sustainable tourism where there are very strict rules and regulations around that either.

I think there's been some changes in that direction, but it hasn't fully gone there yet. So, because I look at this resource as not necessarily a long-term sustainable, I've always looked at tourism as kind of like an intermediate thing where it's like, this is going to be great for the economy. It's going to stimulate the economy to a certain point, but then what's next? What's the long term play? What's like the long term game that you want to play here? And I guess to me, that's not very clear. So yeah, I guess the push into tourism from Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, it's the low hanging fruit in a way, right. It's the thing that is not going to take decades for you to see the results. So you're going to see this very clearly in the next quarter, just by the number of tourists coming in or whatever that metric you're tracking is but yeah, I'm not sure what the implications are for tech or investments for manufacturing or for kind of more, more long term industries where we spend our time.

(12:53) Jeremy Au:

And I think, like you said, I think the administration currently has right, because they're looking to build out that popularity and legitimacy from the population uh, because the prior electoral And so I think one interesting part that I've noticed that, you know, they're trying is interesting I think when it was deregulated Uh, 2022, I was very shocked by the speed of it, but also the extent of that And so now there's a lot of WeTourism that's obviously happening, in Southeast Asia But I'm just kind of curious you know, it and I always thought that it's like, once you kind of like let the genie out of the bottle, you can't really put it back in, right? Kind of dynamic. Um, especially when the 2022, they were giving up millions of cannabis plants to individual households as part of the deregulation So I'm kind of you know, what does the shape of that legislation that are proposing is coming from your perspective?

(13:45) Wing Vasiksiri:

Yeah, so with the initial decision to decriminalize this marijuana was, was very interesting, right? It's the first country in Asia, I believe, to do so and now there's been a bit of a consumer shift or backlash to that. And so I believe the current plan is that they are trying to ban the recreational use of marijuana by the end of 2024. So by the end of this year, so prohibit recreational marijuana use, but it will also allow medical purposes for marijuana. I am very skeptical that this happens just because like you said, right? It's very difficult to put the genie back in the bottle. I don't know if you've visited Thailand, Bangkok recently, but if you have right, it's almost every single block you see a dispensary. So some marijuana dispensary, these are new buildings that were just constructed, really nice interiors, decorated, they're everywhere because of that, I think there's a lot of people that have, there's a lot of stakeholders at play here, right? Owners, employees, all the way through the supply chain from farming, growth to distribution, processing, marketing, whatever it is.

There's a whole supply chain that's been put in effect here over the last couple of years and this law, it hasn't been passed yet. This is what the, I believe the PM is pushing to do. And yeah, I'm quite skeptical that it's going to happen, especially, I guess the two main reasons, this putting the genie back in the bottle, like you said, there's a lot of people, a lot of stakeholders who are very clearly benefiting from this all throughout the supply chain, and then two with the push to tourism, I think that this actually is a big thing that's attracting tourists to enter the country and come to Thailand. So, I think I'm quite skeptical that it's going to pass. I think it'll be interesting to see how it plays out over the next couple of months.

(15:26) Jeremy Au:

Yeah, I mean, Thailand is really ahead of Asia, right? It's the only country, in Asia, I would say, that actually has legalized weed. I'm talking about East Asia, maybe South Asia, and Southeast Asia, so I think, definitely, I hear people talking about it. The numbers here say that, you know, it's going to be worth a $1. 2 billion industry and I think it's quite believable, right? I was just, I'm kind of curious from your perspective is, obviously, when you say that you're pessimistic about it, do you think it's a ban on recreational use? Are you saying that you don't think the ban on recreational use will happen? Or are you saying that you think that the medical usage of it will be relatively loose or kind of like not well-regulated

(16:01) Wing Vasiksiri:

I don't think the recreational use span will happen. That's my prediction, but I wouldn't be super surprised if it was kind of what you're saying as well, where, you know, it's, it's only, it's for medical purposes, but it's not too strict around that, but I think my bias right now is I, I'm skeptical that even the recreational use fad will be implemented.

(16:18) Jeremy Au:

Yeah, will be interesting to see how that turns out.

(16:21) Wing Vasiksiri:

Just because of what you said, right? It's a huge industry. It's benefiting tourists so much.

(16:25) Jeremy Au:

No, it's definitely interesting. I think that obviously there are a lot of interesting dynamics. I mean, you grew up in all these Hong Kong movies talking about a golden triangle, So, and now it's like you know, big surprise for Malaysia, obviously on a border side, Singapore. I mean, it's, illegal for every Singaporean citizen to take drugs anywhere in the world. And so there are all these stories about Singapore going to Thailand, and then when they come back, they get randomly drug tested because, you know, and if they get caught having weed in their system, then, that's a problem, right?

So I think it's an interesting dynamic because it's, legal now, fully legal and booming, and by such a stark contrast, I don't know, I feel like if I was like saying like the US legalization, it's always been like used for a long time and is effectively decriminalized for a long time. And then yet, you know, I don't know, it's Europe as well. It always felt like it was more like a blend or like a very soft gradient of drug enforcement on the weed side. But it feels like Thailand is really like sticking out like a sore thumb, kind of like very divergent you know, from all the neighbors.

(17:24) Wing Vasiksiri:

I mean, I think it's a good strategy. You want to go for a kind of non-consensus play. You can't win if you're doing what everyone else is doing. You have to force a choice. You can't play the comparison game and you know, it's true for startups. It's true for governments and tourism as well, right?

I think by doing this, they are really, they're forcing a choice. It's not a comparison anymore because it's so binary, one way or the other. If Thailand pushes more in this direction, maybe not specifically decriminalizing more drugs, but, just doing things very differently from neighboring countries that are unexpected. I think that's how they win. I think that's how they beat the competition. That's what we advise our startups when we invest, do something different, kind of play the other game. I think, in this respect, that's what the government did here. So yeah, wingteresting hat else comes out

(18:10) Jeremy Au:

Yeah, I think it's gonna be interesting because for so many countries in Southeast you know, with what's happening in Thailand and obviously, in America, the drug laws of kind of like a real divergence right? So it'd be interesting to see maybe it's more convergence in the future, as well. And you're speaking about other things that Thailand is doing differently.

It seems like, Thailand, you know, past, initial proposal on same sex marriage, as well. So I'm just kind of curious because that does feel so very different from Southeast Asia. I think the only country in Asia would be Taiwan that passed same sex marriage. So I'm just kind of curious about what you think about the Thai parliament.

(18:45) Wing Vasiksiri:

Yeah, I think my latest understanding of where that bill is right now is I believe it's they've drafted the initial bill, So they had, there's a draft amendment that would change kind of like the, the civil code for the country. And I think you have to go through like second and third readings. So I think the timeline for passing is still a couple months away. This is something that they've been talking about for a while. I think it's been a couple of years now that they've talked about this kind of legislation, but it does seem like there is momentum around this, picking up steam. It would be a big step. I think Taiwan is the only other Asian country that allows this. It's an interesting move again, right? I think it's unlikely that you're going to see countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, pass such a bill, Singapore as well. So really, I think Thailand kind of positioning itself differently from, from neighboring countries. I think this is part of what the PM is, what, one of the big initiatives he's pushing is this, I think he called it the national soft power strategy which is to basically increase soft power of Thailand globally through food opening Thai restaurants. Internationally across different countries, movies, kind of like what Korea has done really well and sports, fashion, tourism. So it basically just like increasing the awareness of the culture and the values of Thailand, which. Yeah, I mean, this is like what America does the best, right? Like their number one export has always been their culture, right? It's like we grew up watching their movies, their films wanting to, to, to aspire to, to be their heroes.

Right. And I think this is one push to PM suing. So I think the legalization of gay marriage would fall within that. I think, you know, most people are probably for this globally, right? I think it's, especially with like newer generations. I think most people see this as a net positive and I think it's going to help a lot where like, Hey, Thailand's the only country that does Where this is allowed. Maybe that simulates more tourism. Maybe that shows you that Thailand's government's values are more closely aligned with yours. So yeah, I think it's smart move if they're able to push this through. I think we'll see in a couple of months how far this gets.

(20:43) Jeremy Au:

I mean, yeah, this is interesting as well, right? Because similar to weed, but even more so, I think this idea is pretty popular among Thai people right? So, pretty much overwhelming public support So it's kind of like interesting to see political system kind of catch up, with interest by the public especially on the LGBT rights, dynamic whereas I think, like you said, for the weed side, I think there's a popularity piece, but also a big pushback because of lack of regulation around, like, recreational cannabis usage around schools and other public spaces as so this feels like an easier, I don't know, like I said, political win in that sense. and, it feels like a little bit more straightforward but like you said, it's also very different. I mean, you're like literally, there's still corporal punishment in, Southeast Asia for being LGBTQ, right? So, I think for Singapore, like you said, I think it harmonized and removed legislation around the criminalization criminal penalties for LGBTQ.

So it was like one of those laws that were not enforced, So that was removed by the People's Action Party. Was also interesting because they then also adding as part of electoral slash political bargain and code, constitutional definition of marriage, as, you know, between a man and a woman, right? So that was a big kind of like trade to kind of saying like we're marriage, in terms of the traditional definition. Obviously it's still changeable. I mean, the constitution is still changeable based on electoral percentage in the political right? So I think it's not like a hot, is this a, this shows a hard code, a higher percentage requirement effectively for the future. But of course, I think Singapore is dealing with electorally like, you know, he has a large Chinese, Malay, Indian, population. And obviously you, we have, the Christian and the Muslim, faith dynamics around LGBTQ so I think electorally is kind of dicey to do this in Singapore, for example, pretty much a non starter, I'll say definitely in Malaysia and Indonesia, but it was interesting to see this tie side because again, it's one of those interesting things where, I mean, I think a lot of Southeast Asian countries are really struggling if you're LGBTQ married from America, Canada, like what do we do with you as a tourist or as a traveler, as a worker?

Do we even, can we even recognize it, you know, for property rights? Driver licenses and emergency contacts? You know, like all the countries are trying to solve this. And with Thailand doing more like desynchronized, in that sense. Driver licenses and emergency contacts, you know, like all the countries are trying to solve this. And with Thailand doing more like desynchronized.

(23:07) Wing Vasiksiri:

Yeah. I agree with what you're saying. I think that the legalization of gay marriage is a very clear and easy win for Thailand. It's going to basically allow them to stand out relative to the other countries here, support something that I think most people here. And I think, you know, a lot of people just regionally as well support. So yeah, it's less controversial than the, than the weed ban, right. So we'll, we'll see how it plays out, but yeah, I think that makes

(23:36) Jeremy Au:

Another piece of legislation that's come through that's been interesting is the push for casinos, actually, in Thailand. I thought that was a fascinating piece because that has something that's new, I think with the current administration. So I'm just kind of curious about how you're thinking about gaming. I think, I guess it's quite tourism, as pillar of the current Prime Minister's agenda.

(23:57) Wing Vasiksiri:

Yeah, I think so that piece of legislation particular I think it would permit different forms of gaming and gambling. So I think it's like sports betting, overall gambling, like casinos, online gambling, and also more speculation on the stock exchange of Thailand. There were talks of building actual kind of complexes and buildings across different regions, right? So like one in central North, Northeast, South of Thailand. So it's kind of fair distribution. And I read on, I saw. Some of the predictions was like, it's expected to increase the tax revenue to like 3 billion per year, which is a hundred billion baht per year, 3 billion. And that would be from a 30 percent tax on licensed premises. again, I think it's very much similar to what we're talking about in terms of The tourist boost just more push there. I think this again, I think this is not super close to getting past yet. I think you'll still be closer towards the end of the year to see how this initiative develops as well, but yeah, I think it's like an all in push just to increase tourism, right? I think 30, 35 million people predicted this year to come into Thailand, like tourists to come into Thailand. I think this would boost that further along with everything else we've been talking about, so I think yeah, like with the prime minister, that's one big initiative, right?Just kind of increases tourism.

(25:14) Wing Vasiksiri:

The second big one is this digital wallet initiative. I don't know how much you've spent time reading about this one, but this one's quite interesting. And there's been some recent controversy, but high level, the plan here was basically to distribute 10, 000 Thai baht to the the citizens, right? This was something that this party had promised during the election. They were like, hey, we win everyone's gonna get 10, 000 10, 000 baht one time payment 10, 000 baht to about 50 million people and I think there's specific criteria you have to qualify where you can't make more than 7,000 Thai month or have more than 500, 000 in your savings account. So I think that leaves about 50 million or so people. So this was one of the big populist policies that they push in in the election run, right? um So but the problem is, you know, we when we don't have to necessarily money to fund that in the government right now So they have to take a loan of about 500 billion baht and I think with the government's idea is that you're going to have to spend this within a certain amount of time in certain categories, right?

So that's maybe like food, travel just consumption in general. It's really just to boost consumption in the economy. The interesting part is, How they're planning to distribute this 10, 000 bot. So it hasn't happened yet. There's been a lot of talk about, Hey, how are we going to distribute a 10, 000 bot? And the prime minister has talked a lot about blockchain technology or involving blockchain somehow in this distribution.

(26:37) Jeremy Au:

But you already have a digital wallet. You don't need a blockchain digital

(26:41) Wing Vasiksiri:

Exactly. We, we have, we have the digital wallet, right? So we have the Baotang app, which is from a Groom Ties Bank. This was created during COVID. It was to stimulate tourism and all that. So this is what was in the news recently where the prime minister was like, yeah, we're going to create a new blockchain app in order to airdrop 10, 000 Thai baht to every citizen. I think he, he's an investor. He's a big investor in a company called XSpring Capital as well. So his, uh, so he's, he was a businessman, right?

He, he was at San City, which is this big property developer. They own 15 percent of this company, XSpring Capital, which issued his own token, Siri Hub token. And so I think there was some talk about using that company or something similar to airdrop the token or the 10, 000 bot to the citizens, but then it's getting a lot of pushback because we already have this digital wallet blockchain? Is it, is the blockchain going to work with 50 million people?

(27:36) Jeremy Au:

It's just the thought of 50 million people trying to run a blockchain process, you know, I'm just saying you better hope the app works and you know, you don't get transaction speed

(27:46) Wing Vasiksiri:

Yeah, exactly. I mean, I, I'm very skeptical of the first, like the necessity of the use of blockchain and, just kind of like the logistics operationally, how does this going to work? But I will say if through some miracle and through just excellent operational planning, this works, they, and Thailand become the first country in Southeast Asia where everyone blockchain, could be something interesting too, but I'm skeptical, at least.

(28:12) Jeremy Au:

No, I mean, it's fair, right? I think it'd be cool because suddenly you're exposing Uh, I guess, like you said, the tricky part, like you between, blockchain and being able to pay for food, you know, at the local convenience store is going to be that, you know, so many steps. We've seen a lot of, like, catastrophic failures in terms of transactions taking forever to reconcile. It will be interesting to see how that happens, but you know, it's interesting because in all of this, you know, kind of like ballpoint picture of a very pro-business piece, right? Even for the casinos, the Philippines has a casino tax of 25% Singapore is around 17%. So, you know, like, this is a huge push by the Thai government like you said, increase gaming, increase tourism, try to, not kill the cannabis cow here a little bit, you know, same-sex marriage. There's a lot of change afoot. Any other, I think key things that you think are happening as well from

(29:07) Wing Vasiksiri:

I think those were the big ones. I think with this new administration, those are the three big pushes, right? So like tourism, the soft power strategy, and then the stimulation in consumption. I think my big takeaway is that these all feel relatively short-term in such that they're not kind of they're not necessarily long-term innovations that's going to continue stimulating the economy. So I think they're going to, I think a lot of them are going to work. I think a lot of them are going to drive tourism. It's going to drive consumption and tourism. But then what's like kind of the more long-term play? Some of it's really smart, Thailand is kind of, I think finding its identity more as like a tourist-based economy and all the implications that come along with that, showing that, we have Western values in a sense, um, attracting more tourists that way. But yeah, I think those, those were the main things that keeping my eye on.

(29:56) Jeremy Au:

You know, actually, you're right to say that it does feel very different, right? Because if you look at Vietnam, you know, we're discussing with Valerie Vu, but it feels like the Vietnamese government is very focused on foreign direct investment from both the Chinese and Americans. So they're using the Chinese to build infrastructure. They're using the Americans to build the semiconductor industry. They're trying to, coast and surf the China plus one supply chain decoupling strategy. So it feels like they're very focused on manufacturing. As a result of terrible air quality right now. One of the worst in the world, so, but you know, definitely not much tourism when your skies you know, with smog, by it does feel very different.

(30:28) Wing Vasiksiri:

Just that point, you remind me, that's been a big issue in Thailand over the last couple of months too, I think underreported as well. The air quality here has Bangkok has been really horrible. So we, we use this PM measurement where basically if it's over a certain number, it's like just dangerous to go outside. And I think this is an underreported issue in terms of the long-term health effects people have been feeling. Through a big chunk of January and February, you basically couldn't go outdoors. and the scary thing is like you could and you wouldn't know anything, but then you check the PM levels and it's like 150, 180, 200. It's that red sign of the guy wearing the mask saying like, stay indoors is extremely dangerous. underreported. We're like, I'm sure a lot of people, out of necessity or out of just not knowing, spent a lot of time outdoors during those couple months. And there's going to be very, very damaging long-term health effects that we don't know about so that was a big thing.

(31:19) Jeremy Au:

It's a big problem. I mean, I was in China back in 2008 you know, I was like young and fearless and I was out running and exercising in a smog and then I came down with like the worst cough and fungal infection, because it's like sucking in a bunch of cigarettes, you know, every hour right? and I think one interesting part as well is that, you know, you've recently, quickly released a report on the payment sector, and I think we'll cover that in our future episode, but I was just kind of curious, could you share some of the key highlights from that report?

(31:48) Wing Vasiksiri:

Yeah, definitely. So this is a report that I did, late last year. I think if you're just thinking as a whole about fintech, there are a couple of categories that are interesting for consumer fintech. Banking, lending, trading, crypto, and insurance are kind of like the broad categories. The way I think about FinTech is like, it comes in waves, right? The first wave typically when a technology market emerges is usually lending, right? This is usually the most underserved need, just kind of like access to a financial infrastructure and markets. typically consumers. In a market or underbanked and lacking access. So this important, lending and second is payments remittances, and foreign exchanges, right? I think Southeast Asia is still very much in this wave as is Thailand. and then from there, you have like insurance and then more like fundamental infrastructure, like open, banking. But so the report focused specifically on payments in I think lending as a category is still not solved. But it's very difficult for an early-stage investor to invest in that category. so that's why I focus on payments as a category high level I think the biggest one of the biggest takeaways is that Thailand has actually a very strong adoption of online payments We're ranked fourth globally by, the transaction value of real-time payments, right?

So it's like how much, whatever you're transacting on real-time payments annually. the only countries ahead of us are India, China, and South Korea, right? And then Thailand is up there with real-time payments, which is quite impressive. know, considering some of the earliest stuff we talked about, there have been a couple of winners in this space, right? There's OPN, kind of like a Japanese Thai company. There's 2C2P. Those have kind of been the big winners within that. But outside of that, I think the big winners have been the Thai banks. A lot of the biggest banks, K Bank, SCB, have leaned very heavily into a technology strategy and they've invested in kind of undergoing digital transformation. So a lot of the value here has accumulated towards these banks and they're great businesses, so I think those are some of the main takeaways. And then the last thing was that the Bank of Thailand is planning to issue a virtual banking license, which basically allows banks to open without requiring a physical presence. So net new banks can be started up and open about needing physical branches. I think this is huge for the industry and it's an interesting space, but the big caveat there is there are very high minimum capital requirements. 5 billion Thai bots, which is, just a very big hurdle for startups and, again, would benefit more from the incumbents. So those were some of the high-level takeaways from the report, but yeah, I mean, it's a space that I'm spending a lot of time thinking about, which I think continues to be interesting.

(34:20) Jeremy Au:

Amazing. On that note. Thank you so much. I think the three big takeaways from this are that first of all, we talked very much about the Thai new government in terms of the pro-business reform agenda to build out popular legitimacy, but also stimulate the economy. So we cannabis. We talk about tourism. We talk And then the second part, of course, is we double clicked into a lot that. We the various, electoral possibilities And the actual, economic implications of each of those things, the cannabis and the LGBTQ legalization, the tourism push, there are a lot of different aspects about it. And lastly, thanks so much for, I think, covering actually a lot about FinTech in Thailand. So we covered parachuting, 10,000 baht to every person with either true or existing digital wallets, which is also part of real-time payments, or, also the blockchain approach, but also I think it's we will link to your report, by you and Ravenry about the real-time payment. On that note, peace out, and see you next time.

(35:20) Wing Vasiksiri:

Yeah, thanks a lot Jeremy. It was fun.