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Asean keeping fingers crossed over Thai stability

Asean has its fingers crossed that Thailand can now enjoy political stability and sustainable economic growth after judgement day passed without any incidence so that the Asean Economic Community will materialise by 2015, Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan said yesterday.

Boris Sullivan

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Asean has its fingers crossed that Thailand can now enjoy political stability and sustainable economic growth after judgement day passed without any incidence so that the Asean Economic Community will materialise by 2015, Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan said yesterday.

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Asean keeping fingers crossed over Thai stability

The tourism sector worldwide and in Thailand is likely to grow modestly next year

Key risks to the outlook are (i) political uncertainty and (ii) the timing of the withdrawal of fiscal and monetary stimulus. Increased political tensions may have a long-lasting impact on investment, and withdrawal of stimulus (in Thailand and the advanced economies) must be precisely timed to avoid macroeconomic imbalances (including new asset bubbles) while also ensuring that the recovery is on a sufficiently solid footing.

Automotive exports – the second largest item in the country’s exports after electronics – fell sharply early this year by about 45 percent from a year before. (During 2009, exports slumped through May before rebounding in the third quarter, although data of late suggest some leveling off of foreign demand.) Compared with electronics, automotive exports are half as large in value but have twice as large value-added per unit of output, leaving the contributions of both sectors to GDP about equal.

The export collapse in 2009 has been the most severe in Thailand’s recent history


The key risk to the global recovery lies in the need to get the timing of withdrawing fiscal and monetary stimulus just right. Withdrawal of fiscal stimulus too early may lead to another negative demand shock and a negative expectations spiral, whereas withdrawing the stimulus too late may lead to high inflation, further weakening of the US dollar, and possible asset price bubbles. In Thailand, for example, more than ten years since the 1997/1998 financial crisis banks still have bad loans in their books and the government still holds a large amount of debt related to the recapitalization of financial institutions. Given the expected length of recovery, it is important not to withdraw stimulus programs too soon, before the recovery is on a firm footing. On the other hand, macroeconomic imbalances are accumulating and eventually fiscal and monetary authorities, especially in the US, must consolidate their fiscal position and withdraw liquidity.

Asean keeping fingers crossed over Thai stability

Despite the rebound, Thailand’s export recovery is still subject to several downside risks. A recent export pickup in East Asia benefits mainly from coordinated and massive policy responses in G-3 economies and China that have boosted their demand for imports, and inventory re-stocking worldwide that followed a swift and large de-stocking in early-2009 as orders fell less than production. These two factors are temporary, as governments have to unwind injections to maintain fiscal discipline and companies resume their normal stocking levels. In fact, data shows that US inventory-to-shipment ratios for computers, electronic products, and electronic appliances started to rise again in August and September, thus leading to weaker new orders . This likely adds pressure on Thailand’s electronic shipments to the US in the coming months.

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