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Thai economy expands by a stronger-than-expected 2.8%

Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy grew 0.8 per cent in the final quarter of 2015 from July-September on a seasonally-adjusted basis, less than the 1.0 per cent in July-September and the 0.9 per cent expected in a Reuters poll, but growth improved for the year, powered by government stimulus measures and a surge in tourist spending, mainly from China.

Olivier Languepin

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Thailand’s economy slowed in the 2015 final quarter, but growth improved to 2.8% for the year 2015, powered by government stimulus measures and a surge in tourist spending.

Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy grew 0.8 per cent in the final quarter of 2015 from July-September on a seasonally-adjusted basis, less than the 1.0 per cent in July-September and the 0.9 per cent expected in a Reuters poll.

Gross domestic product grew 2.8% from a year earlier in the three months to December, slowing from 2.9% in the third quarter, though slightly stronger than a median forecast of 2.65% by 14 economists polled by The Wall Street Journal.

The National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), the Thai government’s economic-planning arm, attributed the stronger-than-expected growth in 2015 to the government’s fiscal spending and investment, as well as higher household spending, which grew 2.5% from the previous year in the fourth quarter.

Picking up from 0.8% in 2014…

For 2015, the economy grew 2.8 percent, picking up from a revised three-year low of 0.8 per cent in 2014, when political protests paralysed the government.

On Monday, the NESDB cut its 2016 growth forecast to 2.8-3.8 per cent from 3.0-4.0 per cent seen in November. It reduced this year’s export estimate to a 1.2 per cent rise from a 3 per cent gain.

… With a little help from Chinese tourists

Thailand managed to attract just under 30 million international visitors in 2015, according to final figures released by the Tourism Department.

These 29,881,091 foreign arrivals represented an increase of 20.4% over the 24.81 million who visited in 2014, statistics posted on the department’s website showed.

In 2016, the Thai government expects Chinese visitors to account for even a larger proportion of the record 32 million people forecast to visit. “What’s ultimately driving Thailand is the Chinese,” said Matthew Driver, MasterCard’s Asia-Pacific group executive for products and solutions.

Weak exports and falling oil prices

Weak exports continued to weigh on Thailand’s economy in 2015, contracting for the third consecutive year due to a slow global recovery and falling oil and farm-product prices. Exports, worth about two-thirds of GDP, in October-December shrank 7.9 per cent from a year earlier and 5.6 per cent in 2015, central bank data showed.

In an attempt to lift activity, the Thai government changed its economic team in August, and appointed a former Thaksin economic adviser to run new stimulus measures, including ones worth 136 billion baht (US$3.81 billion) aimed at helping rural areas.

Last month, it also approved a 35 billion baht programme for the grassroots economy.

 

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