Thailand’s main airport, which was besieged by protesters in 2008, said on Wednesday it had made contingency plans for protests this weekend, as ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra rallied supporters by text message.
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Significant downside risks remain should political instability resurface in Thailand
Expansionary monetary policy has been employed to help mitigate the impact of the global financial crisis and is starting to be reflected in the financial sector’s lending rates. As inflation rose rapidly in the first half of the year, the central bank of Thailand lowered its policy rate by 50 basis points to 3.75 percent. The decline in inflation facilitated cuts to 2.75 percent in December and 1.5 percent in late February. Market indicators confirm Thailand’s relatively strong financial position. Large foreign exchange reserves, smaller gross financing requirements on both the fiscal and external side, and ample domestic liquidity are among the key strengths in the current crisis. Despite the political turmoil late last year, CDS spreads have risen by about 100 bps less than some other East Asian countries since the onset of the global financial crisis in mid-September.
The Thai government announced an economic stimulus program totaling 117 billion baht ($3.34 billion). The program included a host of short-term measures to boost household consumption and assist lower-income families. The government is now preparing a second stimulus package worth 1.6 trillion baht ($45 billion). Among other initiatives, this package focuses on public investment in infrastructure projects, which the government hopes will help create 1.6 million jobs. “The infrastructure investments, if implemented, will help generate growth and improve Thailand’s competitiveness,” said World Bank. “However, it is worth noting that financing for infrastructure has been available for the past few years. What has suppressed investment was not funding, but rather political and institutional constraints.” While the impact on the real sector has been larger than expected, the global crisis has not shaken the Thai financial sector. The World Bank attributed this to Thailand’s strong macroeconomic fundamentals; low external debt coupled with high international reserves; and a sound financial sector, which has undergone a series of reforms following the 1997 crisis.
Private consumption in Thailand and investment also grew by more in 2008 than they did in 2007, despite the sharp increase in food and fuel prices. On the other hand, public consumption and investments in real terms have contracted in the first three quarters as a result of slow disbursement rates amidst political instability and slow project completion as raw material prices rose sharply.
Overall economic stability remained sound in Thailand . External stability 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 in Thailand remained low but employment started to deteriorate in the forth quarter, particularly in the production sector affected by economic slowdown.