Dr. Suthiphon Thaveechaiyagarn, Secretary General of the Office of Insurance Commission.
Mr. Tanupata Ratanapoolchai, Deputy Secretary General of the Office of Insurance Commission.
Distinguished guests, colleagues, friends.
Good afternoon. This afternoon, here, at the Office of Insurance Commission in Bangkok, we are signing the first-ever agreement on reimbursable advisory services (RAS) between Thailand and the World Bank. It is a momentous occasion, and I am delighted to be here, together with you.
Let me share some reasons for my happiness. Personally, signing this agreement today brings back memories. More than 30 years ago, I was studying economics, and I wrote my undergraduate thesis about insurance. Then, a couple of years later, I worked on an analysis of the German insurance market in my very first professional job, with McKinsey & Co. in Germany. The insurance market has stayed close to my heart ever since.
Now, insurance is big and an important industry, well developed and sophisticated, in my own country, Germany, and in most advanced economies. However, it is not yet equally developed in developing and middle income countries, and not even in most advanced middle income countries. Many people around the world live without the protection of insurance, no medical insurance, no life insurance, no home insurance, no auto insurance.
In Thailand, the insurance market has been growing significantly faster than GDP. Still, today, the large majority of Thai people do not have insurance. There is a huge potential for the insurance market to grow.
What does it mean that the Thai insurance markets can grow? It means that more people can buy insurance so they can protect themselves, their lives and their property. Why is it important? It’s important because when misfortune strikes, such as during floods, earthquakes, or other natural disaster – many of us remember the severe flood in Bangkok in 2011 – then insured people are protected.
At the World Bank, we are about reducing poverty and helping poor, disadvantaged people. Often poor and disadvantaged people do not have insurance and are without protection when they get sick or when a disaster strikes. Affordable insurance protects people, poor people, and helps improve their lives.
Why do many people in Thailand, and in other countries, not have insurance? I have a Thai family, they know about insurance, and one family member sells insurance. However, many Thais do not have insurance. Why? Many do not know about insurance, cannot easily access insurance, cannot find suitable or tailored products or cannot afford it. Auto insurance tends to be highly competitive and affordable, but home insurance for example is expensive and rare.
How to develop a strong insurance market, so more people buy insurance and are protected? Efficient and effective regulation is critical for a strong insurance market. It’s not sufficient and, by itself, is not a guarantee for strong and deep insurance markets, but it’s a necessary requirement for a strong, functioning insurance market – without it markets simply fail to develop and grow. The Office of Insurance Commission is essential as a well-oiled regulatory engine to advance the development of insurance in Thailand. The agreement we sign today will help achieve this goal.
Finally, I am happy, because together we have succeeded to do something new and innovative. Our teams across the Thai government and across the World Bank have been working intensively toward this goal since I arrived three years ago: the goal for Thailand to access the global technical and implementation experience and expertise of the World Bank to help raise incomes, create jobs, and protect poor people, and to do so in a manner where Thailand, as an advanced middle income country, owns and funds the work with its own resources, where you tell us what you want, and we provide it in a customized fashion that is helpful to you.
This is the first time we will be working together with Thailand in this way, and we arrived at this point together with much determination, perseverance, and flexibility by all of us. It is a milestone in our partnership, and it is worth celebrating together.
For these reasons I am happy to be here.
I also would like to highlight my special appreciation and respect for you, Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General of the Office of Insurance Commission, because the work to be done is about a self-assessment of the insurance regulatory principles. In essence you are asking the World Bank, as an independent expert, to assist and guide you to evaluate and assess the system. You open yourself up, and you trust us, and this takes courage. I would like to express my admiration for this initiative, and commit to you that we will work hard to earn your trust.
Thank you all very much.