The Thai economy is expected to return to positive growth of 3 per cent next year, but there will be substantial downside risks, says the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Recent crashes in Thailand’s GDP and export markets, plus the drop in tourism fuelled by recession and last year’s domestic political turmoil, have dispelled illusions that the country is insulated from the effects of the global downturn.
ADB predicts 3% growth for Thailand next year
Recent Trade Reforms in Thailand
Numerous indicators of economic health are hitting the red, foreign investment is evaporating, unemployment is surging, and credit lines are freezing up. Thailand’s government still says there is a possibility of positive growth this year, despite facing a rougher ride than in the 1997 Asian financial crisis as conditions infest the real economy on a broader scale.
Thailand’s economic growth over the last three decades has been fueled and accompanied by rapid industrialization, urbanization, and by intensified agricultural production and fishing. This growth, which has relied extensively on the country’s abundant and diverse natural resources, has degraded land and water quality, caused the loss of natural habitats, and generated increasing levels of air and water pollution. In response, the Government and people of Thailand have launched new initiatives to improve air and water quality, reforest degraded land, adopt energy efficient technologies and invest in pollution abatement schemes.
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Imports from new ASEAN member countries also have lower import duties. As part of ASEAN Integration System of Preferences (AISP), tariffs of products such as vinegar, chili, certain vegetables, wood products, and electronic switchboards imported from Cambodia, Myanmar and Lao PDR are either reduced or abolished from September 2008.
Many of these tax privileges were scheduled to expire at the end of this year, but now extended for another one to three years, depending on whether such tools and equipment can be currently locally produced. The government also cancels many parts and components required in assembling chasses used in vehicles that are fueled entirely by natural gas.
Externally, the trade balance in January 2009 recorded a 1,688 million US dollar surplus. Export value contracted for the third consecutive month while import fell even more rapidly. Export value dropped 25.3 percent (yoy) to 10,382 million US dollars. This was due mainly to contraction across the board except for labour-intensive industries which still expanded from gold export. Import value contracted 36.5 percent (yoy) across the board to 8,694 million US dollars. When accounting for the net services, income, and transfers surplus of 601 million US dollars from lower investment income transfer compared to the previous month, the current account balance registered a 2,289 million US dollar surplus.
External stability in Thailand was upheld by high international reserves, while trade and current account were close to balance. Regarding internal stability, inflation rose from last year in line with higher oil prices, despite a downward trend during the second half of the year. Unemployment rate remained low in Thailand in 2008 but employment started to deteriorate in the forth quarter, particularly in the production sector affected by economic slowdown.