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Thailand Prime minister presides over the ceremony to hand out Bt2,000 cheques

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Thursday presided over the ceremony for the cash hand-out for Bangkok residents at the City Hall.

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Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Thursday presided over the ceremony for the cash hand-out for Bangkok residents at the City Hall.

Abhisit advised recipients of the cash to prudently spend their money and avoid conspicous consumption.

He said there is justification for panicking about the economic slowdown. While trying to tough out the problem, the people could help by promoting local products and domestic tourism.

The cash hand-out is part of the stimulus plan. The government has earmarked Bt19 billion for each income earner with less than Bt15,000 salary to receive a one-off cheque worth Bt2,000.

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PM presides over the ceremony to hand out Bt2,000 cheques

checkExternally, the trade balance in January 2009 recorded a 1,688 million US dollar surplus. Export value contracted for the third consecutive month while import fell even more rapidly. Export value dropped 25.3 percent (yoy) to 10,382 million US dollars. This was due mainly to contraction across the board except for labour-intensive industries which still expanded from gold export. Import value contracted 36.5 percent (yoy) across the board to 8,694 million US dollars. When accounting for the net services, income, and transfers surplus of 601 million US dollars from lower investment income transfer compared to the previous month, the current account balance registered a 2,289 million US dollar surplus.

External stability in Thailand 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 remained low in Thailand in 2008 but employment started to deteriorate in the forth quarter, particularly in the production sector affected by economic slowdown.

Thailand is among the region’s more open economies, with exports accounting for around 65% of gross domestic product (GDP)

So far Thailand has been hard hit by flagging global demand, particularly in the US and Europe. Exports fell 15.7% year on year in December, the second consecutive month of declining growth, according to Bank of Thailand statistics. The Ministry of Finance’s Fiscal Policy Office meanwhile projected the Thai economy contracted a worse-than-expected 3.5% in the fourth quarter. Independent analysts have carried forward that downbeat analysis, predicting economic and export growth will both be negative territory in 2009.Thailand’s shipments span the value-added gamut, with the country serving as a production and export hub for multinational automobile manufacturers, while maintaining its traditional position as one of the world’s leading rice, rubber and seafood exporters.

Thailand’s banks and finance companies were at the heart of the country’s 1997 collapse

With average factory usage rates mired at 60%, demand for new capital expenditure bank loans will likely be muted throughout 2009. Industrial output was down 7.7% in November and fell another 18% in December. UBS noted in a recent report that the decline in manufacturing over the second half of last year was steeper than the entire fall during the worst 18 month period of the 1997-98 financial crisis.
While Thailand exported itself out of crisis after the 1997-98 collapse, current global economic turmoil – including a near collapse in global trade – has significantly narrowed potential paths to recovery. Economists contend that a small trade-geared economy like Thailand can only marginally replace the revenues and jobs lost from falling exports by stimulating more domestic demand-led economic growth.

Those outlays are added to the stimulus measures written into the 2009 fiscal budget, which was devised to run a 2.5% of GDP deficit. The government has also implemented 40 billion baht worth of tax cuts mainly for the property sector and indicated it could launch another supplementary budget before the end of the fiscal year in September if the global economy slips further than expected.
The Bank of Thailand meanwhile has supported those measures with rapid monetary easing. Since December the central bank has trimmed 175 basis points off the benchmark interest rate, bringing down the 14 day bond repurchase rate to 2%. Economic analysts believe central bank authorities will slash rates further to around 1% before the end of the year. The local currency, the baht, has reacted mildly to the cuts fluctuating between 34 and 35 to the US dollar.

The cash hand-out is part of the stimulus plan. The government has earmarked Bt19 billion for each income earner with less than Bt15,000 salary to receive a one-off cheque worth Bt2,000.

It represents one of few times in recent years that fiscal and monetary policies have been complementarily calibrated. A grinding political conflict, pitting supporters and detractors of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in a 2006 military coup, has hobbled successive governments’ ability to devise and implement effective economic policies.
The debilitating conflict climaxed last November when military-linked anti-government protestors closed Bangkok’s two international airports for over a week, crippling the money-spinning tourism and air freight dependent export sectors. The Bank of Thailand has estimated the closure cost the Thai economy as much as 290 billion baht, with hotels estimated to have lost 140 billion baht due to cancellations.

Electronics and electrical components account for nearly 35% of total exports.
While official unemployment figures were still low at 1.5% as of December, they are expected to climb potentially twice as high in the months ahead as cash-strapped employers opt to save costs by cutting staff rather than reducing worker hours. Whether rising unemployment will translate into significant new rounds of social unrest and political disruption is unclear.

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