Citi Foundation and Kenan Foundation Asia have launched a special project -“Literacy Improvement for Better Finance in Thailand”, calling for collaboration between the government, private sector, civil society and academics to tackle the problem of personal debt and the lack of financial literacy amongst Thai people, particularly, farmers, students and unskilled and low-skilled workers.
Darren Buckley, Country Head and Citi Country Officer, Citibank, N.A., said “Thailand is now facing a problem of mounting personal debts, largely due to overspending. Over the past decade, overspending has increased substantially while income growth continues to move upward at a slower rate. This is due in no small part to the lack of financial literacy education.
Despite many ongoing financial education projects operated by the government and other agencies, problems persist in changing people’s behavior to promote savings and responsible credit management.”
Mr. Buckley added that “Financial literacy skills are a key means of promoting financial health. This is why Citi Foundation, in partnership with Kenan Foundation Asia, has initiated a special project – ‘Literacy Improvement for Better Finance in Thailand’ or LIFT – to improve financial literacy in Thailand, particularly amongst farmers, students and unskilled and low-skilled workers. ”
A key activity under LIFT is a research study examining existing gaps in financial literacy education as well as best practices in the delivery of financial education services.
Building on efforts undertaken by the Bank of Thailand, Fiscal Policy Research Institute Foundation and other related governmental units, the study aims to identify the causes behind low financial literacy in Thailand as well as solutions to tackle the problem. The study will also include interviews with key figures in the financial literacy space in order to analyze the problems and circumstances leading to low savings rates and poor credit management in Thailand.
Piyabutr Cholvijarn, President of Kenan Foundation Asia, commented: “The fact that Thai people lack financial knowledge and skills, coupled with Thailand being a consumer-driven society, has led to problems of mounting personal and household debt.”
According to a 2013 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) survey on financial literacy, the financial literacy level in Thailand was 58.5%, below the study’s average score of 62.3%, taking into account financial literacy in 14 participating countries.
An in-depth study indicated by the Ministry of Finance that students, people with low incomes and farmers are those with the most pressing need for financial literacy education. Furthermore, Thailand’s household debt-to-GDP ratio rose to 82.3% at the end of 2013, a significant increase from the 55.6% level in 2008.
Mr. Cholvijarn added that “Kenan Institute and Citi Foundation are calling for collaboration from all sectors to develop concrete education guidelines for financial literacy to be used throughout the country.”
The 1st Stakeholder Meeting “Literacy Improvement for Better Finance in Thailand: Direction and Trend of Thailand’s Financial Education Development” was kicked off as a forum with representatives from the government, private sector and civil society in attendance to discuss and exchange information to be used as guidelines for the provision of financial literacy to the public at all levels.
In the longer-term, the project will encourage stronger financial knowledge skills for the general public and establish a “National Agenda” on financial literacy with cooperation from the government, private sector, and civil society.
Citi Foundation has organized a suite of financial education projects focused on personal financial management including the Citi-FT Financial Education Summit, At-Risk Women, Teacher’s Money Sense, Citi Microfinance Community Savings Group Project and many more.
In 2013, Citi Foundation provided over 720 million baht worth of financial support to organizations helping improve financial literacy education globally. Additionally, Citi Foundation brings together Citi volunteers, partners, academics and others working in financial literacy to share best practices and identify trends in financial literacy education at all levels.
Citi, the leading global bank, has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. Citi provides consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, transaction services, and wealth management.
Citi Foundation – The Citi Foundation works to promote economic progress in communities around the world and focuses on initiatives that expand financial inclusion. We collaborate with best-in-class partners to create measurable economic improvements that strengthen low-income families and communities. Through a “More than Philanthropy” approach, Citi’s business resources and human capital enhance our philanthropic investments and impact. For more information, visit www.citifoundation.com.
Kenan Foundation Asia is a knowledge and capacity building organization implementing results-oriented, social and economic development programming on a not-for-profit basis. With our headquarters in Bangkok, we conduct activities in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, as well as regional activities in Southeast Asia. Our focus areas include business and economic development, education, public health, and corporate social responsibility. Kenan has been implementing financial literacy education and training projects in Thailand for SMEs, teachers, students, low-skilled workers and community members for over 15 years.