As the situation is escalating, the Bangkok Bank, Krung Thai Bank, Kasikornbank and Siam Commercial Bank will close all of their Bangkok branches at 1pm on Wednesday, Prasarn Trairatvorakul, chairman of the Thai Bankers Association said.
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Real GDP in Thailand growth slowed to 2.6 percent in 2008 from 4.9 percent in 2007. In the first three quarters of 2008, output grew 5.1 percent year-on-year thanks to robust exports and investment. Starting in October, however, the sharp decline in global demand, amplified by the domestic political crisis took a toll on growth and real GDP contracted 4.3 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter. While Thailand’s financial sector was mostly insulated from the financial crisis, the real sector was impacted quickly, and export volumes contracted in October for the first time in six and a half years.
However, significant downside risks remain should political instability resurface in Thailand and the global decline proved more protracted or steeper than now expected
Inflation has been easing with the slowdown in economic activity and the decline in oil and food prices. After peaking at 9.3 percent in July 2008, 12-month inflation fell to only 0.4 percent in December, although the average for 2009 at 5.5 percent was roughly double the level in 2007. Core inflation averaged 2.3 percent in 2008, within the central bank’s target of 0-3.5 percent. In January and February, prices declined 0.3 percent from the first two months of 2008, but this has been driven primarily by fuel prices, with other prices still increasing year-on-year. Given the increased excess capacity in the economy and the continuing decline in global oil and food prices this year, inflation in 2009 is expected to be negligible.
Export volumes are projected to contract 16 percent in 2009 after a 6 percent expansion in 2008. Exports of services, more than half of which were accounted for by tourism receipts (around 8 percent of GDP) will also be heavily impacted by the slowdown in arrivals from advanced countries (40 percent of total tourists). Accordingly, exports of services are projected to contract by 6.6 percent this year. Import volumes should contract more than exports due to businesses running down inventories and a contraction in overall investment and consumption of imports. Net foreign demand will nevertheless contribute negatively to growth since in real terms exports represent a much larger share of GDP than imports.
The thai government is implementing two sets of stimulus measures, one of 1.5 percent of GDP targeted at FY09 (announced in January) and a recently-announced plan for FY10-12 (fiscal years run October-September) that anticipates deficits as high as 5 percent of GDP. As a consequence, government consumption is expected to increase by nearly 10 percent in 2009. The current account registered a small deficit in 2008, and is expected to turn to a surplus starting in 2009 supported by a steep decline both the price and volume of imports – especially fuel. The small deficit registered in 2008 was mostly due to the increase in imports and reduced exports and service receipts in the second half of the year. The financial account is expected to register modest net outflows in 2009 as portfolio investments continue to show outflows , while FDI net inflo will continue to be positive, but at a lower level compared to the past few years.
Thailand’s economic growth is falling by more than earlier expected amid a sharp and continuing decline in global trade.
The contraction would be Thailand’s first since 1998, said Mathew A. Verghis, the World Bank’s Lead Economist in Bangkok. It would follow a decade of growth averaging nearly 5 percent each year.
“Countries like Thailand that have been dependent on manufacturing exports are most affected,” said Verghis, who covers Thailand and four other Southeast Asian countries. The World Bank released its latest forecasts for Thailand and other economies in East Asia and Pacific on Tuesday. The global economic slump shut down what has been, for the past three decades, the main engine for Thailand’s economic growth: exports. As a result, the manufacturing sector has been badly hit. The Thai government estimated that one million or more workers would lose their jobs this year due to the slowdown. In January, the unemployment rate stood at 2.4 percent of the total workforce – a full percentage point higher than the 1.4 percent recorded in December 2008.
So far, the Thai government has enough capacity to finance the first economic stimulus package and the three-year public investment plan. In the face of shrinking revenues, the government estimates its budget deficit to be about 525 billion baht, or 6 percent of Thailand’s gross domestic product, in the fiscal year ending September 2009. It is also seeking loans from domestic and external sources to shore up the budget and support planned investment.
However, the World Bank cautioned that, for public debt to remain manageable, budget deficits will need to be reduced over the next few years and growth needs to return its long-term average, highlighting the importance of using the crisis as an opportunity to enhance growth prospects.
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. The political unrest in the last quarter of 2008 will continue to dampen tourist confidence into at least the first half of 2009. In addition, the slow down in growth of the economies from which a large number of tourists come to Thailand, such as EU and Japan, will reduce tourist receipts next year. With the slow down in exports capacity utilization is expected to fall; which will negatively affect private investment.Household consumption growth will also continue to be dampened as income growth will be slower next year with employment increasing minimally, and consumer confidence falling, even though inflation will be significant lower at only around 2 percent compared to 6 percent this year. Significant downside risks remain to the growth projection should political instability heighten, the global economy decelerate faster than projected, and implementation of the fiscal stimulus is delayed.
During the closure of the airports in Bangkok from November 26 to December 2nd the CDS rose and was on par with regional peers, while the stock market fell further below that of regional peers.The impact of the global financial crisis in Thailand has been started to be felt in the real sector, particularly that of exports.
Loan growth in Thailand, however, will slow down next year. As the economy slows down, liquidity in the global markets tightened, and corporate balance sheets weaken, commercial banks have signaled that they will focus more on risk management than on loan growth.