AirAsia, Southeast Asia’s largest low-cost carrier, is turning Phuket into its second hub in Thailand, a move that will support its plan to open a series of new routes directly linking the island resort with other Asian cities.
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On the demand side, private consumption and investment declined notably in the last quarter, despite falling inflation during the second half of the year in line with lower oil prices. Both export and import expanded satisfactorily during the first three quarters. However, during the last quarter, export contracted following trading partners’ economic slowdown while import decelerated markedly in line with export and domestic demand conditions. Thailand’s real GDP is projected to grow by 0 to 1 percent next year. This will be the lowest growth Thailand has seen since 1998, when real GDP contracted.The major factor weighing down growth next year is the sharp slow down in the global economy, particularly the contraction of the economies that are Thailand’s major export markets â€“ US, EU, and Japan.This will have a large negative impact on Thailand’s exports of both goods and services which has been the major source of income and the driver of the output growth in the past few years. The US dollar value of exports of goods is expected to expand by only 8 percent in 2009, compared to around 20 percent this year.
International reserves stood at US$106 billion in early December 2008 compared to US$87.5 billion at end-2007. This is due to the large capital inflows in the first quarter of the year and again in the last quarter of the year. External debt is low at around US$66 billion or 30 percent of GDP, of which two-fifths are short-term debt.Three quarters of the short term debt are trade credits and inter-company loans. Public external debt (government and state-owned enterprises) make up one-fifth of total external debt and less than 1 percent of it is short-term. Overall, external debt service ratios are manageable at 6.1 percent of exports.
Non-performing loans (NPLs) have been declining and stood at 3.3 percent of total loans in the third quarter of 2008, compared to 4.4 percent in same quarter of 2007. The adjusted loan-to-deposit ratio in Thailand is around 90 percent. Average capital adequacy ratios are over 15 percent compared to Bank for International Settlement (BIS) requirement of 8.5. While these ratios suggest that the banking system as a whole is relatively sound, it is important to monitor individual banks, however.