Thai central bank forecasts slower economic growth

Pedestrians in Bangkok on Feb 5. Thailand's economy is the second-most vulnerable to the coronavirus outbreak, after that of Hong Kong, with its strong reliance on China trade and Chinese tourists, say analysts.
Pedestrians in Bangkok on Feb 5. Thailand's economy is the second-most vulnerable to the coronavirus outbreak, after that of Hong Kong, with its strong reliance on China trade and Chinese tourists, say analysts.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

BANGKOK • Thailand's economy will grow at a much slower pace than previously forecast this year and much further below its potential, the central bank said in minutes of a meeting earlier this month when it cut interest rates to a record low.

Risks are increasing due to the coronavirus outbreak, delayed government spending and an intensifying drought, according to the minutes of its Feb 5 meeting, which were released yesterday.

In December, the Bank of Thailand (BOT) predicted growth of 2.8 per cent for this year, but it recently said it might be less than 2 per cent.

Thailand's economy is the second most vulnerable to the coronavirus outbreak, after that of Hong Kong, with its strong reliance on China trade and Chinese tourists, analysts at Nomura say.

The trade-reliant economy grew just 2.4 per cent last year, the weakest pace in five years, hurt by contracting exports amid global trade tensions, and sluggish investment.

At the BOT meeting, the monetary policy committee (MPC) unanimously voted to cut the policy rate by 25 basis points to 1.00 per cent, the third reduction in six months.

"The committee viewed that a more accommodative monetary policy stance would alleviate the negative impacts," the minutes said.

The MPC "would stand ready to use policy tools as appropriate", the minutes added.

The central bank will next review monetary policy and provide updated economic projections on March 25.

 
 
 
 

BOT governor Veerathai Santiprabhob previously said that there was still policy room to help growth if necessary.

Headline inflation this year and in 2021 was projected to be lower than the 1 per cent to 3 per cent target range, the minutes said.

The committee remained concerned that the baht's value might not be consistent with economic fundamentals and would likely remain volatile despite its recent depreciation compared with trading partner currencies, they said.

The MPC said there was a need to closely monitor exchange rates and the effectiveness of the relaxation of rules to spur capital outflows.

The committee encouraged the BOT to consider implementing additional measures to stimulate investment and imports to reduce large current account surplus.

REUTERS

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2020, with the headline 'Thai central bank forecasts slower economic growth'. Print Edition | Subscribe