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Is there a middle class in Asia?

Why this attention to the middle class? Empirical evidence shows that growth of the middle class is associated with better governance, pro-growth reforms, even better infrastructure.

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A colleague from the Asian Development Bank visited the other day to talk about a study he is doing on Asia’s middle class.  Yet this is not an area we have focused on in the World Bank’s East Asia region – perhaps at our cost.  I quickly googled the topic and discovered a rapidly growing literature, including a paper each by Martin Ravallion and Nancy Birdsall just this year.

 

Why this attention to the middle class?  Empirical evidence shows that growth of the middle class is associated with better governance, pro-growth reforms, even better infrastructure.

 

Vikram Nehru

Vikram Nehru, the World Bank's chief economist for the Asia-Pacific region

It appears that as people gain middle class status, accumulate savings, and acquire secondary and tertiary education, they are likely to use their greater political clout to press for accountable government.  This includes the rule of law, property rights they now have more to protect!, and greater public goods supportive of growth including better infrastructure, education, fewer trade restrictions, and economic stability.  Interestingly, the larger the middle class a country has, the more likely it is to reduce poverty faster.  Ergo – if we are interested in growth and poverty reduction – we better start paying attention to the middle class.But who are the middle class?  Alas, this is where the economics profession lives up to its billing “ask ten economists a question and you get eleven answers”.

via Is there a middle class in Asia? Depends on how you define it | Making development work for all.

 

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Economics

Thailand’s Ministry of Finance expects 3.5 to 4.5% economic growth in 2022

For next year, the Ministry of Finance is projecting an economic growth of 3.5-4.5% from effective pandemic control measures, incentives, domestic spending, the export sector, private investment support, global economic recovery, and government expenditures.

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The Minister of Finance says Thailand’s economy this year would see only a 1.1-1.2% growth

BANGKOK (NNT) – The Ministry of Finance is now projecting an economic rebound to 4.5% growth next year, with government investments serving as key drivers. The Minister of Finance says the government will focus more on inclusive growth next year, with no sectors left behind.

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Ecommerce

Pakorn Peetathawatchai, President, The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET)

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Pakorn Peetathawatchai, President, The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET)

What measures has SET taken to support listed companies’ compliance with ESG standards?
PAKORN PEETATHAWATCHAI:

PAKORN: When we first began promoting ESG-compliant investments, we were met with little interest. We attributed this to a lack of clear data to showcase the economic benefits of ESG investment, and perhaps limited clarity as to what constitutes a sustainable or ESG-compliant investment. The launch of the THSI list and, subsequently, the SETTHSI Index, was designed to address this. Our most recent data, comparing returns for the SETTHSI Index with the broader SET and SET100 indices from April 2020 to April 2021, underscores the economic benefits of these investments: the group compliant with ESG standards outperformed the other two indices on every data point. 

As of May 2021 Thailand was home to CG and ESG assets under management totalling BT54.8bn ($1.7bn) across 50 funds – up from 23 funds in 2019. Meanwhile, of the BT187.1bn ($5.9bn) raised in green, social and sustainability bonds since 2018, BT136.4bn ($4.3bn) was raised in 2020 – 83% from the government and the remainder from development banks and private players. This rising demand, in a move to manage risk and generate returns, has been complemented by growing supply and promotion: supply from ESG-compliant businesses aiming for resiliency and sustainable growth, as well as promotion from regulators highlighting investment opportunities with good CG and SD practices. Indeed, the pandemic has been a catalyst in shifting the view of ESG compliance from a luxury to a requirement in the new normal.

In what ways can enhanced standard-setting and regulatory mechanisms overcome the remaining barriers to improved ESG performance?

PAKORN: A multi-stakeholder approach is crucial for enhanced ESG performance – not only in Thailand, but around much of the globe. This can also help to address the standout incumbent challenge: access to reliable, wide-ranging ESG data. For example, the 2020 update to the 56-1 One Report established clear ESG standards and triggered online and offline capacity-building programmes to support listed firms’ compliance. SET is developing an ESG data platform with a structured template to promote the availability of comparable data, maximise value added from corporate sustainability disclosures, and foster collaboration between the business value chain and stakeholders. This is expected to support Thai companies along their ESG journey in an economically sustainable way, result in a greater number of sustainability-focused products and services, drive sustainable investing in the Thai investment community and ultimately “make the capital market work for everyone”, as outlined in the SET’s vision.
 

 

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