Thailand economic growth surges to 5-year high in Q1 as exports climb

Four years after the military seized power, Thailand's economy is rebounding with growth sustained by a pick-up in exports and tourism.
Four years after the military seized power, Thailand's economy is rebounding with growth sustained by a pick-up in exports and tourism.PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) - Thailand's economic growth surged to a five-year high last quarter, beating all economists' estimates as rebounding farm output added to gains from exports and private consumption.

Gross domestic product rose 4.8 per cent from a year ago, the National Economic and Social Development Board said on Monday (May 21). That is the fastest pace since 2013. The median estimate of 18 economists in a Bloomberg survey was 4 per cent. GDP rose a seasonally adjusted 2 per cent compared with the previous three months, higher than the 1.2 per cent median estimate.

Four years after the military seized power, Thailand's economy is rebounding with growth sustained by a pick-up in exports and tourism. The central bank last week held its benchmark rate near a record low to help support the economic recovery as businesses are still reluctant to invest.

The statistics agency raised its growth forecast for this year to 4.2 per cent to 4.7 per cent, from 3.6 per cent to 4.6 per cent.

"Higher exports help support the manufacturing sector," Wichayayuth Boonchit, deputy secretary general of the state planning agency, said in a briefing in Bangkok. Private investment is expected to recover this year, he said.

The military government has cut red tape, stepped up efforts to woo foreign-direct investment for industrial modernization and is boosting infrastructure. But big projects have faced some delays and elections expected next year inject uncertainty into the outlook.

Thailand's foreign-reserve buffers and a current-account surplus are helping to shield the nation from volatility as US rates rise. The baht gained 0.1 per cent to 32.163 per US dollar as of 9:50am in Bangkok. It earlier touched 32.363, the weakest level since January.

It is among the few emerging-market currencies that has gained against the dollar this year.