Thailand: Selected Issues

Abstract

Thailand: Selected Issues

Macro-Financial Stability Assessment1

Thailand’s financial sector has expanded rapidly over the last decade and important changes in its structure have taken place. While corporate debt has remained broadly stable, household debt has increased to one of the highest levels among emerging markets, raising concerns of household debt overhang. Against this backdrop, this chapter presents policy options to safeguard financial stability.

A. The Changing Financial Landscape

1. Thailand’s financial sector has expanded rapidly over the last decade and is now one of the largest among middle-income countries. Total financial assets, excluding those of the Bank of Thailand (BOT), increased from 202 percent of GDP in 2007 to 283 percent of GDP in the third quarter of 2015 (Table 1). Notwithstanding the development of capital markets and nonbank financial institutions, depository corporations continue to account for the bulk of financial intermediation, with nearly 70 percent of total financial assets (excluding the BOT).

Table 1.

Total Assets of the Financial Sector

(Percent of GDP)

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Sources: Thai authorities; CEIC Data; and IMF staff calculations.

Includes saving cooperatives, credit unions, finance companies and money market mutual funds.

Includes mutual funds, insurance companies, provident funds, asset management companies, securities companies, government pension fund, credit card and personal loan companies, leasing companies and pawnshops.

2. There have been important changes in the structure of the depository corporations sector (ODCs). Depository Specialized Financial Institutions (DSFIs)—policy banks that implement government objectives—have grown very rapidly and now represent about 20 percent of total assets of the ODCs.2 Similarly, other depository institutions, such as credit cooperatives and credit unions, have also expanded rapidly but from a low base.

3. Another salient feature has been the growing presence of nonbank financial corporations (OFCs).3 A very low interest rate environment stimulated innovation of financial products and services. Demand for mutual funds, insurance products, and consumer loan products provided a backbone for growth in the financial industry. Interbank money markets have also supported financial deepening. OFC assets increased from 63 percent of GDP in 2007 to 90 percent in the third quarter of 2015, accounting now for roughly 30 percent of the total financial sector.4

4. Credit to the private sector has increased along with the fast expansion of the financial sector balance sheet. Since 2007, domestic credit to the private sector increased by nearly 45 percent of GDP to 151 percent of GDP in 2015. Over 80 percent of this increase was driven by credit to the household sector, which climbed to 82 percent of GDP at end-2015. Both ODCs and OFCs contributed to the growth of household debt. Corporate debt has been broadly stable, reaching 80 percent of GDP by the third quarter of 2015 (Figure 1).

Figure 1.
Figure 1.

Thailand: Total Household and Corporate Debt, 2007–15

The credit-to-GDP ratio in Thailand is among the highest in emerging markets. In particular, household debt rose markedly in recent years, faster than prior to the Asian Financial Crisis. Corporate debt remained broadly stable.

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2016, 140; 10.5089/9781484376003.002.A003

B. Risk Assessment of Financial Institutions

5. The Financial Soundness Indicator Map of depository corporations suggests a medium rating on financial vulnerability (Table 2). The medium rating is driven by the credit cycle. From this perspective, the recent moderation in credit growth is welcome. While the credit-to-GDP ratio has continued to increase, credit growth itself started slowing down in 2013 and continued to moderate to 4.9 percent y/y in December 2015 (Figure 2). Although credit demand from SMEs and households picked up at end-2015, depository corporations tightened credit standards given concerns over credit quality, except for large firms.

Table 2.

Financial Soundness Indicator Map of Depository Corporations

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The latest data is based on 2015:Q4 data, except the credit cycle ratios that are based on 2015:Q3 data. Due to data availability, credit cycle analysis is based on Other Depository Corporations (ODCs), while balance sheet soundness analysis is based on commercial banks that hold about 70 percent of assets in ODCs.

Deposits and loans exclude interbank data and are based on information from commercial banks.

Figure 2.
Figure 2.

Thailand: Credit Growth to the Private Sector by Depository Corporations, 2007–15

Credit growth by depository corporations moderated in 2015. Credit to nonfinancial corporations generally declined faster than credit to households, the latter supported by loans from SFIs.

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2016, 140; 10.5089/9781484376003.002.A003

Sources: Bank of Thailand; Datastream; and IMF staff calculations.1 Includes Cooperatives and other depository financial corporations.

6. Risks are mitigated by overall sound balance sheets, though there are pockets of vulnerabilities:

  • Commercial banks are well-capitalized and profitable, with ample liquidity. NPLs have recently ticked up from a low base due to weak economic conditions, but appear manageable (Figure 3). Growth in the manufacturing sector has been stagnant, with the slowdown in trade and FDI inflows in recent periods, and NPLs in the manufacturing sector had a sudden uptick during the third quarter of 2015. In turn, personal consumption loans have shown a trend increase in NPLs, especially since 2011.

  • SFIs have been less profitable than commercial banks. Recent BOT inspections of SFIs have revealed that their balance sheets are relatively sound, except for two small SFIs that need to be restructured. Reflecting the public nature of their mandate, SFI profitability measured by return-on-asset (ROA) is 0.8 percent, lower than that of commercials banks. In addition, NPLs are nearly twice those of commercial banks on average, given their higher exposure to highly indebted low-income households and SMEs affected by sluggish economic activity.

  • The financial soundness of cooperatives’ balance sheets needs to be fully assessed. The cooperative sector appears to be in relatively good standing with low NPLs and high profitability. However, these indicators follow a different classification than those of SFIs and commercial banks, and should be carefully analyzed. While the level of capital appears adequate, there is scope to improve prudential regulations, as well as risk monitoring. The Savings and Credit Cooperative, the largest cooperative holding 87 percent of total cooperatives’ assets, has reported NPLs of only 0.2 percent at end-2014. Its ROA is higher than the average ROA in commercial banks. Due to the drought, however, cooperatives have been extending the tenor of loans for farmers facing difficulties to repay on time.

Figure 3.
Figure 3.

Thailand: Nonperforming Loans (NPLs) and Ratio to Total Loans

(In percent)

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2016, 140; 10.5089/9781484376003.002.A003

Sources: DataStream; and IMF staff calculations.

C. Driving Factors and Dynamics of Household Debt

7. Several factors explain the rise in household debt. Commercial banks and SFIs have been expanding mortgage loans to households. With favorable price developments in the condo market, the value of home equity has been rising. A number of commercial banks have also been offering home equity loans to help pay off higher interest debts, finance home renovation, and start a business. In addition, consumer loans have become widely accessible over the past years. Following the 2011 floods, the authorities introduced a tax rebate program for first-time buyers of automobiles to support the country’s auto industry.5 Cooperatives continued to expand consumer loans, following the 2008 global financial crisis and the 2011 floods. Banks and nonbanks have been issuing credit cards, with increased penetration across households of different income levels.

8. Mortgage loans have contributed the most to the growth of household debt. Mortgage loans account for more than a quarter of total household debt (or 22.5 percent of GDP in 2015) and have been growing by 9½ percent on average during 2007–2015. Loans for business purposes account for 17.7 percent of total household debt. The remaining household debt is mostly consumer loans, including car, credit card, and personal loans.

9. Prices in some segments of the housing market have appreciated rapidly, supporting household net worth and credit demand. Home ownership has remained high during the most recent credit boom, and prices for single-detached houses have increased by 30 percent since end-2008 (Figure 4). Following the 2011 flood, demand for condominiums soared due to the extension of the mass rapid transportation network, and condominium prices have increased by nearly 70 percent since end-2008. The price appreciation has been partly driven by easily-accessible terms for mortgage loans, with low down payments regardless of the number of condos in the client’s possession.6 While much of the mortgage loans are extended to first-time home buyers, an estimated 10 percent of real estate purchases is for investment purposes. Land prices in Bangkok and vicinities have also increased by 66 percent since end-2008. These favorable developments have strengthened the value of collaterals, facilitating access to consumer loans backed by home equity.

Figure 4.
Figure 4.

Thailand: Housing Markets

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2016, 140; 10.5089/9781484376003.002.A003

10. Macroeconomic conditions have also contributed to the growth of household debt relative to disposable income (Figure 5). When household debt dynamics are decomposed based on the household budget constraint (IMF, 2015),7 the analysis shows that the accumulation of financial and residential assets (aat) has played a significant role. In addition, the household saving rate (st) declined to 8½ percent in the most recent period, from 15 percent in the 1990s. More interestingly, the real interest-to-income differential (itπtgt) has widened, driven by higher real interest rates and lower growth in disposable income. Further declines in prices during 2015 may have further increased the real interest rate-to-income differential and the real debt burden.

Figure 5.
Figure 5.

Thailand: Household Debt, Income and Consumption

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2016, 140; 10.5089/9781484376003.002.A003

Sources: Bank of Thailand; Datastream; and IMF staff calculations.

11. While credit growth has slowed, high household debt and its fast increase relative to disposable income raise concerns (Figure 6). The pace of increase in household debt relative to income in Thailand has been very pronounced, much faster than that in Korea or the United States. Such rapid increase raises concern of vulnerabilities associated with a protracted slowdown in economic growth (a.k.a. debt overhang) if households need to deleverage their debt (IMF, 2012).8

Figure 6.
Figure 6.

Household Debt to Disposable Income Ratio

(Percent)

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2016, 140; 10.5089/9781484376003.002.A003

Sources: Datastream; and IMF staff calculations.

12. The distribution of household debt matters for assessing risks. Data stratification based on household characteristics, including income, age, occupation, and wealth, can map vulnerabilities of household debt. Based on other studies,9 the following salient points emerge:

  • Distribution of debt: A total of 54 percent of households was indebted in 2013. The top income quintile households accumulated debt at a faster pace, and their debt accounted for 65 percent of the total. Households in the 4th income quintile accounted for another 20 percent.

  • Debt burden over income quintile: The poorest income quintile is the most heavily indebted and faces a 50 percent debt-service ratio (DSR). When households with high net worth are excluded from the poorest income quintile, the adjusted DSR declines to under 40 percent. The DSR of households in other income quintiles is in the 23-29 percent range. While the DSR varies across households with different occupations, the ratio tends to be particularly high among households in the agriculture sector (Bank of Thailand, 2016).

  • Debt accumulation over education profile: The growth in debt was higher among households with higher education, but their debt accounts for only 36 percent of the total. The remaining household debt was held by those without higher education.

13. The short-term risk to financial stability is determined at the intersection of the distribution of household debt and the exposure of financial institutions. While DTI and DSR are both important to gauge the level of risk, the analysis should be supplemented by the level of household wealth. The level of vulnerability of financial institutions also differs, and depends on the degree of exposure to the household sector. The strength of their balance sheet should be assessed with complete stress tests to household balance sheets.

D. Policy Options to Strengthen Financial Stability

14. The BOT has achieved important milestones to strengthen the resilience of the financial sector. Microprudential regulations have been aligned with international standards. The BOT has also strengthened the supervisory framework and upgraded onsite and offsite supervision (IMF, 2009). Risk management and monitoring have been incorporated in the framework, including by issuing guidelines and enhancing data collection and analysis of prudential indicators. Moreover, SFIs have been brought under the BOT’s supervisory umbrella. The BOT has also recently set up a dedicated Financial Stability Unit (FSU) for systemic risk monitoring and analysis.

15. To further strengthen financial stability further, a policy upgrade is needed in several areas:

Microprudential Regulation and Supervision

  • Transfer of supervision of SFIs. The government has made the legal transfer of prudential supervision to the BOT in early 2015. Bringing DSFIs into full compliance with Basel core principles will require more time. For non-depository SFIs, the Basel framework needs to be adjusted to effectively regulate their operations.

  • Close monitoring of savings and credit cooperatives. Many of these institutions are deposit taking, with an extensive branch network. They have promoted savings by members and facilitated financial inclusion. While the size of their assets is still small, risk monitoring and management needs to be enhanced, while strengthening the prudential regulation and supervisory framework. The ongoing close collaboration between the BOT and regulators of cooperatives to step up prudential standards is welcome.

  • Effective coordination among supervisory agencies. Appropriate regulations need to be put in place for other (nonbank) financial corporations. Their funds are made available to other financial institutions, which in turn lend to households and various sectors of the economy. Effective coordination between the BOT and other regulators of nonbank financial institutions can enhance financial stability.

Macroprudential Policy Framework

  • Macroprudential tools. Thailand has several macroprudential instruments in its toolkit. The BOT has successfully used LTV ceilings on different price-tiers and types of residential properties and varying risk weights applied to high value loans (Nijathaworn, 2010). DTI ceilings on personal loans were also applied and subsequently minimum payments and income have been added on credit card loans. The macroprudential toolkit can be expanded to include countercyclical prudential requirements, special weights on riskier loans, and capital surcharges for systemic institutions.

  • Data and analysis. There is also considerable scope to deepen data gathering and systemic risk analysis. Priorities include tracking the strength of the credit cycle, leverage ratios and unhedged exposures in specific sectors, and systemic risks from interconnectivity.

  • Stress testing. The BOT has made significant progress in monitoring financial market risks, though there is scope to further strengthen the stress testing framework by improving scenario design and developing top-down stress tests. In this regard, the BOT needs to assess also systemic risks from interconnectivity between banks and nonbank financial institutions.

  • Institutional setup. Over time, the newly established FSU should grow into a full department, focused on systemic risk, financial stability, and macroprudential analysis, with an appropriate legal mandate. The FSU needs to be equipped with technical capacity to carry out cost-benefit analysis of macroprudential measures by collecting necessary data. Such analysis can inform the need for changes in the stance of macroprudential policies.

Crisis Prevention and Resolution and Deposit Insurance

  • SFI resolution. Effective and credible resolution regimes can strengthen market discipline and mitigate excessive risk taking. Staff recommended granting the BOT resolution authority over SFIs. The BOT is in close discussion with the Ministry of Finance to set up a clear resolution mechanism and develop effective collaboration to complement each other’s role.

  • Deposit insurance. A gradual extension of a deposit insurance scheme to cover DSFIs needs to be considered.10 The current scheme, implemented in August 2015, protects deposits worth up to B 25 million at a bank, reduced from the previous limit of B 50 million. The scheme will be eventually replaced with a new limit on protection for deposits up to only B 1 million, while will likely encourage individuals with deposits over B 1 million to transfer their accounts to SFIs, where deposits are implicitly protected under government guarantees, and to other financial corporations, where account holders can seek higher yields (Tummanon, 2011).

Household Debt Restructuring

  • Household debt overhang. The BOT should establish a contingency plan for a tail event comprising self-reinforcing cycles of household defaults, deleveraging, and contractions in output. Government intervention may be warranted if arrears and defaults threaten to disrupt the banking sector, constraining credit supply and reducing productive investment (Shleifer and Vishny, 2010). Well-designed household debt restructuring programs can limit the contraction in growth (IMF, 2012). Voluntary out-of-court or government-sponsored household debt restructuring can help restore the ability of borrowers to service their debt, thus preventing the contractionary effects of unnecessary foreclosures and excessive asset price declines.

References

  • Bank of Thailand, 2016, “Financial Stability Report 2015.

  • International Monetary Fund, 2009, Thailand: Financial System Stability Assessment, IMF Staff Country Report No. 09/147 (Washington: International Monetary Fund).

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  • International Monetary Fund, 2012, World Economic Outlook, April 2012: Dealing With Household Debt (Washington: International Monetary Fund).

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  • International Monetary Fund, 2015, Republic of Poland: Staff Report for the 2015 Article IV Consultation, IMF Staff Country Report No. 15/182 (Washington International Monetary Fund).

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  • Muthitacharoen, A., Chotewattanakul P. and Nuntramas P., 2014, “Rising Household Debt: Implications for Macroeconomic Stability,Siam Commercial Bank, Ltd., Economic Intelligence Center.

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  • Nijathaworn, B., 2010, “Macroprudential Policies and Capital Flows: Managing under the New Globalization,Conference on Macroprudential Policies organized by the PBC and the IMF, Shanghai, China (October 18, 2010).

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  • Shleifer, A. and Vishny, R. W., 2010, “Fire Sales in Finance and Macroeconomics,NBER Working Paper No. 16642 (Massachusetts: National Bureau of Economic Research).

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  • Tummanon, A., 2011, “Deposit Insurance Will Change Thai Banking Landscape,Asia Pacific Housing Journal, Vol. 5, No. 15.

1

Prepared by Kenichiro Kashiwase.

2

There are eight SFIs in Thailand. Six are deposit taking corporations, including Bank for Agriculture and Agri-Cooperatives (BAAC), Government Savings Bank (GSB), Government Housing Bank (GHB), Islamic Bank of Thailand, EXIM Bank of Thailand, and SME Development Bank. GSB accounts for approximate 9 percent of the total assets of ODCs, while BAAC, the second largest DSFI, holds around 8 percent of the total assets of ODCs. The remaining 2 non-deposit taking SFIs are Thai Credit Guarantee Corporation (TCG) and Secondary Mortgage Corporation (SMC).

3

OFCs include mutual funds, insurance companies, provident funds, asset management companies, securities companies, the government pension fund, credit card and personal loan companies, among others.

4

The coverage of the data was expanded in 2010 to include additional nonbanks, contributing about 7 percentage points to the overall increase in total assets from 2010 to the most recent period.

5

The program ran between October 2011 and December 2012. The scheme was designed to promote auto ownership among low- and middle-income households. The government would start providing rebates equivalent to 10 percent of the maximum price (i.e. B 1 million) for those who held the car for the minimum of five years.

6

Mortgage loans often require a minimum 10 percent for down payments in Thailand, and households are able to get additional loans with the purchase of mortgage and life insurance.

7

Based on the household budget constraint, debt accumulation can be approximated by the following equation: Δdt ≈ {(itπ, − gt) / [(1 + gt)(1 + πt)]} dt-1st + aat.

8

The study shows that a one percent decline in real house prices lowers consumption growth by 0.3 percent for countries with high household debt. The impact from debt overhang is sizable when household debt is high and has climbed rapidly prior to declines in asset prices.

10

The Thailand Deposit Protection Agency Act was enacted in 2008 and came into full effect in 2012. The Act protects depositors who hold accounts at commercial banks, finance companies, and credit financiers.

Thailand: Selected Issues
Author: International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept
  • View in gallery

    Thailand: Total Household and Corporate Debt, 2007–15

    The credit-to-GDP ratio in Thailand is among the highest in emerging markets. In particular, household debt rose markedly in recent years, faster than prior to the Asian Financial Crisis. Corporate debt remained broadly stable.

  • View in gallery

    Thailand: Credit Growth to the Private Sector by Depository Corporations, 2007–15

    Credit growth by depository corporations moderated in 2015. Credit to nonfinancial corporations generally declined faster than credit to households, the latter supported by loans from SFIs.

  • View in gallery

    Thailand: Nonperforming Loans (NPLs) and Ratio to Total Loans

    (In percent)

  • View in gallery

    Thailand: Housing Markets

  • View in gallery

    Thailand: Household Debt, Income and Consumption

  • View in gallery

    Household Debt to Disposable Income Ratio

    (Percent)