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Thailand has earned international praise for its containment of the Covid-19 pandemic, with very modest levels of infections and less than 60 deaths as of July 1.
In response to its sweeping lockdown measures, the government launched an unprecedented emergency spending package of 2.2 trillion baht, amounting to nearly 13% of GDP.
Yet, the economic impact of the pandemic has been particularly harsh for Thailand, particularly on the country’s most vulnerable communities — those relying on the informal economy, migrant workers, farmers and others including women, children and the elderly.
“New Normal” outlook remains bleak
As life in the cities and countryside settles into a “new normal,” the outlook remains bleak. A range of forecasts suggests the Thai economy could contract by an annual 5% to as much as 10% in 2020 — among the sharpest projected declines in the East Asia and Pacific Region.
This is due partly to the country’s openness to trade and its exposure as a tourism hub – on top of an economic slowdown that was underway well before the pandemic.
Weaker global demand in the post-Covid era is weighing heavily on international trade which, in turn, has disrupted global value chains, such as automobiles, one of Thailand’s mainstay industries, and hit exports.
Millions more below the poverty line
The tourism sector, which accounts for 15%-20% of GDP, has been hard hit with international tourist arrivals drying up from March. Above all, the economic hardships brought by the Covid-19 lockdown is expected to drive millions below the poverty line and erase economic gains of recent years.
What more needs to be done to protect the most vulnerable and why does it matter? Our expert speakers will assess the implications for Thailand’s most vulnerable communities and discuss the challenges ahead for policymakers, government, civil society, aid organisations among others.
Key issues include identifying the gaps in welfare coverage, addressing inequalities and improving Thailand’s social safety net. Speakers include:
Dr Porametee Vimolsiri, Permanent Secretary of Thailand’s Ministry of Social Development and Human Security
Gita Sabarwhal, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Thailand
Dr Birgit Hansl, World Bank, Thailand country manager
Dr Kirida Bhaopichitr, Thailand Development Research institute (TDRI), research director for International Research and Advisory Service
Sunai Pasuk, Human Rights Watch, Thailand representative
Moderator: Gwen Robinson, FCCT President