Thailand’s gross domestic product grew 12 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2010 – one of the highest growths in the world – while exports soared above 30 per cent, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said on Sunday.
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Although private investment has joined the rebound in Thai economy, the outlook remains weak relative to other demand
Key risks to the outlook are political uncertainty and 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.
The domestic content of automotive output in Thailand varies between 50 and 90 percent and averaged about 62%. For Isuzu (the largest pickup producer), domestic value-added is probably closer to 90 percent. Electronic and computer components are largely imported (from Japan), as are most transmissions (from the Philippines and India). Electronic components are of high value added and are used globally by the producers. Moreover, their development requires substantial R&D expenditures. Car manufacturers, as a result, prefer to concentrate the production of these electronic components in their home country – notably Japan – limiting technological spillovers. Only Toyota has a local transmission plant, with the remainder imported from India and the Philippines.
Fiscal stimulus in China offset the decline in Thailand’s exports and is playing a role in the region’s rebound
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.