March 20, 2019
Over the next few weeks, MEDICI brings you a series of articles exploring FinTech in the ASEAN region. The articles, each of which will focus on a different ASEAN country, provide comprehensive insights into the FinTech investment landscape in the region.
ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is the third-largest Asian region. It is home to more than 630 million people. One-fourth of the population lives in urban areas. ASEAN has a 4.7% annual growth and USD 119.97 billion in FDIs; it is also one of the fastest-growing regions globally as well as the seventh-largest economy.
Its population is young and educated with a literacy rate of over 80%, phone-savvy with more than 0.5 phones per person, and enjoys a low to mid unemployment rate from 0.5% to 6.9%. ASEAN members also have an average to a high life expectancy of 69–82.7 years, and a gender parity of 49.9% males to 50.1% females.
To begin with, let’s take a look at Thailand in the ASEAN region, and understand the FinTech investment landscape in the country.
About 49% of the 69 million Thais live in urban areas. Phone penetration is high with 1.2 phones per person and 39% of the country connected to the internet. Thailand has also one of the highest adult literacy rates and one of the lowest unemployment rates at 0.8%. Life expectancy is relatively high compared to the rest of the region and the country’s growth is over 3% per year.
However, more than 7 million people live below the national poverty line, and foreign ownership is limited to 25% without approval, up to 49% with approval from BoT, and more than 49% with the approval of MoF. The country ranks at number 43 in terms of ease of doing business, thereby placing it among the best players in the ASEAN region. Corporate tax on profits is 20% with a gradual rate for locally incorporated companies.
The Thai economy faced headwinds in recent years and GDP growth was modest. It reached 2.8% in 2015 after a lackluster 0.9% in 2014 – partly on the basis of government consumption & investment and partly on declining imports – but growth has been picking up in 2016 and 2017.
The economy has benefited from strong growth in government spending (>17% of GDP), private consumption – a key growth driver in recent years, and investments. However, high levels of household debts remain an area of concern. The National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) cut its 2016 GDP growth estimate to a range of 2.8% to 3.8% from 3% to 4% underpinned by weaker exports and a depreciating Baht.
The net asset value of mutual funds has seen a CAGR of 15% in five years as of December 2016. According to AIMC, mutual funds made up more than 20% of the financial assets in Thai households as of March 2016. This is quite high compared with the ASEAN average of ~10%. Thailand’s self-employed, who account f ...