Vol. X No. 48
Friday 29 November - 5 December 2002

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by Parisa Santithi


HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]: 

Revenue department wants to encourage taxpayers to enter the system voluntarily

Consumer confidence index continued to drop in October

TAMC proposals due early next year may have solutions for local steel industry

Thailand’s exports expected to total over US$68.2 billion this year

Global fuel prices likely to stay low over next few months

Buy Thai - PM urges people to purchase community products as New Year gifts

Cassava export to China looks promising

Krung Thai Credit Card forced to reject applicants

Japanese architect of ‘One Village One Product’ program visits Thailand

Plans being made for Thai silk, leatherwear and the tuk tuk to gain international renown

Revenue department wants to encourage taxpayers to enter the system voluntarily

The cabinet has approved a rearrangement of the Finance Ministry geared to develop the capabilities of the authorities under the ministry’s supervision. The government has set up three plans for the department; improvement of the tax system, an e-revenue project and the development of human resources and organization.

The government wants to bring the tax system into line with national development strategies, in particular, replacing audits for past payment by an emphasis on current and future tax collection to reduce the tax assessment procedure.

The revenue department wants to encourage taxpayers who are not currently paying tax to join the system voluntarily. It is thought that if the tax authorities are more reasonable and tax payers are assured of fairness in tax administration, more taxpayers would enter the system willingly. (TNA)

Consumer confidence index continued to drop in October

According to a recent report put out by the University of Chamber of Commerce’s Economic and Business Forecasting Center, the consumer confidence index in October dropped for the second consecutive month. This signals that consumers are becoming uncertain about the local economic situation.

Thanawat Polachai, director of the center, said its survey showed the consumer confidence index on the country’s economy, employment opportunity and future income had declined to 82.2, 71.8 and 103.6 from 84.9, 74.2, and 154 respectively in September.

Thanawat said, “The decrease in the confidence index for two months in a row has us worried. We believe the fall is caused by fears of global economic uncertainty and a possible war between the United States and Iraq, as well as lower interest rates locally and in the US.” He said these factors have lessened people’s confidence in consumption and caused them to spend more cautiously.

Thanawat recommended that government should try to boost the public confidence if the war breaks out. It must also continue to adopt monetary and fiscal policies for solving economic problems. He projected the country’s economy will grow around 4% this year and continue to expand around 4.2% next year.

Thailand’s export is expected to grow 4.8% this year and 4% next year with inflation staying at 0.5% and 1.5% respectively. (TNA)

TAMC proposals due early next year may have solutions for local steel industry

According to a recent statement by Finance Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, the Thai Asset Management Corp plans to finalize a restructuring plan for the steel industry by early 2003.

A team of TAMC executives, led by managing director Somjate Moosirilert, will oversee the study and draft measures aimed to increase productivity and cooperation within the industry. A number of steel companies are under supervision by the TAMC which is a state agency established to restructure hundreds of billions of baht in bad loans.

Dr Somkid said mergers within the steel industry could help ease the long-standing problems of excess capacity and high debt. “The Siam Cement Group and NTS Steel have already merged. The rest of the operators could also merge, since their debt is still in the hands of the government,” he said.

Dr. Somkid added that TAMC will push for consolidation in the industry. The government wants the steel industry to use its capacity efficiently and bring in new technology.

Millennium Steel Co was established early this year through a merger of Siam Cement Group’s two steel units; Siam Iron and Steel and Siam Construction Steel, and NTS Steel Plc.

Chartsiri Sophonpanich, president of Bangkok Bank and head of the Thai Bankers’ Association, has also been asked to help draft a restructuring framework for the industry. (TNA)

Thailand’s exports expected to total over US$68.2 billion this year

Thailand’s total exports are likely to exceed US$68.2 at the end of this year, thanks to the steady increase in exports over the past three months, according to Commerce Minister Adisai Bodharamik.

Adisai said that the Ministry of Commerce would do an upward adjustment of its estimate of the country’s export growth this year to 4.5-5.0%, from the earlier forecast of 3.5%. The country’s exports were expected to grow 4.5-5.0% next year, he projected. (TNA)

Global fuel prices likely to stay low over next few months

The National Energy Policy Office (NEPO) is projecting that world oil prices will continue to stay low over the next few months given Iraq’s acceptance of the United Nations’ tough resolution on disarmament and excessive oil production by the Organization of Petroleum Export Countries (OPEC).

Deputy Prime Minister Prommin Lertsuriyadej, in his capacity as chairman of the NEPO committee, said the body met to assess the situation on fuel prices in the past eight months. In the NEPO’s view if Iraq respects the UN resolution this cooperation will contribute to the decrease in global oil prices and those in Thailand.

However, should the situation worsen and the war breaks out, the Thai government already has a contingency plan with the oil reserves sufficient for consumption for at least 53 days.

Metha Bantherngsuk, director of the Energy Planning and Policy Office, said Baghdad’s softening stance and the excess oil output of 2 million barrels by OPEC had brought world oil prices down. This could be witnessed by the fall in Dubai oil prices by one US dollar to US$22 per barrel last week. That level was the lowest in the basket of fuel prices adopted by OPEC at the range of US$22-28 a barrel.

However, Metha acknowledged that Iraq’s position must be closely monitored. Should Baghdad fail to cooperate in disarmament, war might erupt and oil prices could soar again. (TNA)

Buy Thai - PM urges people to purchase community products as New Year gifts

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is urging Thai people to support the ‘One Village, One Product’ scheme by giving community products as New Year presents. The Thai leader said that by supporting fellow Thais, citizens would not only help expand the domestic market but also spur economic activities. He said the people involved in these projects need encouragement from within the nation.

Thaksin said, “Villagers who are producing various community products under the government’s ‘One Village, One Product’ scheme need the backing of their fellow citizens. The New Year is the perfect time to support these people by choosing their products to give as gifts to friends and relatives. This will not only help them to develop their small enterprises but will boost the nation’s economy at the grass-roots level.” (TNA)

Cassava export to China looks promising

Thailand’s export of cassavas has promising prospects in terms of volume and value now that China has become a major buyer of the product as a raw material for paper production.

Tosapol Tantiwong, chairman of Sa-nguanwong Industry Co, the country’s largest cassava exporter said export has improved so significantly that at present the supply of the product cannot not meet the demand.

China has replaced the European Union and Japan as the major purchaser of cassavas from Thailand. The product is used as a raw material for the paper industry, which has expanded in tandem with the country’s economic growth. Some cassava is also used to produce alcohol.

Given the improved development the cassava export is expected to increase by 10% from that of last year. More importantly, local growers will enjoy higher product prices. The export of cassavas to the EU as a raw material for animal feed has declined because more is being shipped to China where product prices are higher. (TNA)

Krung Thai Credit Card forced to reject applicants

As a result of the Bank of Thailand’s recent decision to curb interest rates and reintroduce minimum salary requirements, Krung Thai Credit Card (KTC) said it has been forced to reject many applicants.

KTC director Niwat Jittalarn said that the company will have to focus more on the expansion of personal loans which currently has no control regulations.

On November 7th of this year, The Finance Ministry and the Bank of Thailand (BOT) confirmed plans to impose a minimum salary requirement for acquiring credit cards as well as a ceiling on the interest that card issuers can charge.

BOT Governor Pridiyathorn Devakula said that the new rule requiring a minimum monthly salary of 15,000 baht and an 18 % cap on annual interest charges will help prevent credit card defaults and avoid a debt crisis among low wage income earners.

The central bank’s move has prompted both foreign banks and non-bank credit card issuers to move in the same direction with KTC, trying to earn more income from personal loan provision schemes.

A senior management executive at Standard Chartered Nakornthon Bank admitted that the new BOT regulations have affected the bank’s credit card business. “Credit card services have high operating costs since we do not have as many branches as local commercial banks. We have to hire marketing teams at higher rates. Huge amounts were spent in various marketing campaigns and promotions in order to offer more privileges to our clients,” he said. “In the meantime, we may have to trim marketing and promotion campaign budgets and emphasize personal loan programs which have higher rate of return,” he added. (TNA)

Japanese architect of ‘One Village One Product’ program visits Thailand

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his ministers hosted a welcoming dinner for Japan’s Oita Governor Morihiko Hiramatsu, who made an official visit to Thailand on November 17th. Morihiko is recognized as the architect of the One-Village One-Product program in Japan. He has pioneered the scheme since 1979 until Japan managed to develop community products and allow local people to earn an annual income of US$ 27,000 per capita.

Government Spokesman Sqn Ldr Sitha Tivaree said the Thai premier took the opportunity to thank the Oita governor and exchanged views with him about ways to successfully implement the program. Thaksin wanted to know how to help local communities to ensure sustainable economic development.

Thaksin had a discussion with Morihiko regarding strategies to distribute community products in the market through information technology. Currently, Internet services have reached 7,000 villages nationwide where 1,500 kinds of products are available. The premier also discussed ways to implement the village fund policy. (TNA)

Plans being made for Thai silk, leatherwear and the tuk tuk to gain international renown

Thailand is planning to promote 3 Thai products in the world market to gain fame. Industry Minister Somsak Thepsutin said that the ministry has set a policy to promote Thai silk, leatherwear, and the tuk tuk (three-wheeled taxi) under the Thai brand name to gain recognition and popularity at the international level, and increase the value of Thai products.

Concerned authorities have been instructed to facilitate the plan which is expected to materialize in the next 90 days. Thailand will import technology and human resources with an aim to boost the competitiveness of the products in the world market.

“We will persuade the world’s best tannery to establish its business in Thailand or buy technology from other countries so that Thailand can produce high quality leatherwear,” said Somsak.

As for Thai silk, Somsak said that, initially, Thailand will hire world class designers to develop patterns for Thai silk clothes and will promote Thai silk as the world’s best silk.

Somsak added that the government will implement the plan to export the tuk tuk, called ‘Chai Yo’ in collaboration with Toyota Motor Co. Thailand, which has agreed to help develop technology in manufacturing small engines for the three-wheeled vehicles. (TNA)

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