Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s planned speech in Hong Kong is viewed with suspicion by the government and his opponents — although it is not known what he will say and whether it will hurt the country or not.
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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. 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.
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.
The banking sector in Thailand remains sound, but individual banks needs to be closely monitored.Banks’ foreign investments are less than 2 percent of their total asset with investment in foreign debt instruments being around 13 percent of total debt-instrument holdings. Foreign banks account for about 12 percent of the Thai market (although this figure goes up to 30-40 percent through equity holdings in Thai banks).
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