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Emerging Markets

Thailand to use blockchain technology to boost corporate debt market

The head of Thailand’s Bond Market Association tells GlobalMarkets about the potential of blockchain and wider market reforms to increase trading efficiency and help expand the size of its corporate debt market

By Rashmi Kumar

The leading players in Thailand’s bond market are looking at incorporating blockchain technology to increase efficiency and help it develop its undersized corporate debt market, according to the head of the country’s Bond Market Association.

Tada Phutthitada said that although the kingdom’s bond market had grown sharply since the Asian financial crisis, the corporate bond market accounted for less than 20% of GDP — considerably lower than some of its south-east Asian neighbours. He said the BMA was putting its focus on developing the corporate debt market.

“We are exploring blockchain technology to be used for our registrar service platform project. But it can take two or three years for the technical development and for it to be ready to be implemented,” he said. The specifics were still limited at this stage, but the way forward would be to come up with more practical details, he added. 

The BMA also wants to make the country’s debt market more efficient, with plans to move towards a scripless platform, while also diversifying into socially responsible and catastrophe bonds. “Our goal is to change corporate bond issuance, which is now mostly issued in scrip or certificate form, to scripless or paperless form,” Phutthitada said. “This will facilitate more efficient trading, reduce settlement risk and lead to a more efficient bond market.” 

Thailand is not the only southeast Asian country looking to go digital. Frontier market specialists told GlobalMarkets recently that Vietnam’s ministry of finance is working on putting together a draft framework for monitoring and recognising bitcoins and cryptocurrency, and move towards eventually using Blockchain technology. 

The timeline and details are still unclear, however, with any implementation at least two years away, they said. 

Thailand’s plans come as the bond market has seen impressive growth in the past two decades, rising from 12% of GDP 20 years ago to almost three-quarters of GDP as of August 2017. 

Market conditions now are starkly different. Thailand’s public debt management office needs about Bt1tn ($29.8bn) in government funding in the 2018 financial year — split equally between new borrowings and refinancing maturing debt. About 56% of this is expected to be funded using government bonds

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