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Vol. XIV No. 11
Friday March 17 - March 23, 2006

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Updated every Friday
by Saichon Paewsoongnern

 

BUSINESS 
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]: 

Bangkok set to be user-friendly city for women

NESDB decreases economic growth projection

Thailand bids to promote exports of safe chicken and shrimp

Economy-related agencies urged to be active in promoting Thai exports

2006 trade deficit projected at nearly US$6 billion

Thai banks deny loan cancellation to Temasek

Senate panel calls on Singapore to probe Shin Corp dealings

Commerce Ministry projects furniture export to grow at least 10% this year

Thailand-China agree to expand bilateral trade

BOT decides to raise 14-day repo by 0.25%

Bangkok set to be user-friendly city for women

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) will cooperate with women’s organizations to promote the Thai capital as a safe and user-friendly city for women, Bangkok Governor Apirak Kosayodhin said.
Last Wednesday, Apirak signed a cooperation agreement with representatives from the women’s organizations including the Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women, the Friends of Woman Foundation, Woman Taxi Drivers Group, women’s representatives from the Youth Council and the BMA’s Federation of Senior Citizens’ Clubs to promote Bangkok as a safe city for women.
The BMA and the women’s-related organizations would also jointly fight against all types of violence towards women and children, the governor said.
The governor said the BMA has already initiated a “help line” to tackle problems of violence against women and children.
The Bangkok municipality also observed International Women’s Day by recognizing outstanding women who take leading roles in varied aspects of city development, including the environment, community funding, cultural conservation, social welfare and narcotic suppression. (TNA)


NESDB decreases economic growth projection

The National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) has decreased Thailand’s economic growth projection this year to 4.5-5.5 percent from 4.7-5.7 percent due to fuel price volatility and global economic slowdown.
NESDB’s Secretary-General Ampon Kitti-ampon said that the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the fourth quarter of last year expanded 4.7 percent, compared with 5.4 percent in the previous quarter, since higher fuel prices had pushed up production prices and the inflation rate to 6 percent.
Additionally, the Bank of Thailand (BOT)’s Monetary Policy Committee has raised the policy interest rate, or the repurchase rate, twice by 0.75 percent altogether. This has resulted in commercial banks raising both lending and deposit rates accordingly.
Ampon said that private consumption in the fourth quarter last year dropped to 4 percent, from 4.5 percent in the previous quarter, and the private investment declined to 9.3 percent from 11.6 percent.
Global oil prices last year surged by 46.5 percent to an average of US$49.30 per barrel, from US$33.65 in 2004.
The Thai economy has also been dampened by drought and floods, legacy of tsunami disaster, bird flu outbreak, trade deficit of US$8.12 billion and a current account deficit of US$5.86 billion in the first half of the year, as well as southern unrest and higher interest rates.
With these negative factors, the GDP last year expanded only 4.5 percent.
For this year, NESDB projected that GDP would grow 4.5-5.5 percent, from 4.7-5.7 percent targeted earlier, since global oil prices continue to rise to US$55-58 per barrel from US$54-55 per barrel as expected earlier.
Also, the global economy might drop to 3.4 percent from 4 percent due to the United States and Chinese conflicts and the economic slowdown in China and Europe.
He said NESDB does not consider an ongoing political turmoil as a main factor for the GDP growth estimate since it projected the incident would ease by no later than the middle of this year.
Ampon said the 2006 Thai economy would be boosted by an effective energy-saving campaign which began last year, an expected export growth of 17-18 percent, and tourism recovery following the inauguration of the Suvarnabhumi Airport in the middle of this year.
Negative factors that could dampen the economic growth this year include a persistent oil price rise and trade deficit.
NESDB projected that the country’s exports would grow 15.3 percent to US$125.9 billion and imports 2.-2.5 percent to US$135.5 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of US$9.6 billion and US$4 billion this year.
It also forecast that the inflation rate would stay at around 3.5-4.5 percent this year. (TNA)


Thailand bids to promote exports of safe chicken and shrimp

The Ministry of Commerce will invite trading partners from Europe and the Middle East to inspect chicken and shrimp production in Thailand in May, with an objective to boost export of the two products, said a senior ministry official.
Chantra Purnariksha, director general of the ministry’s Department of Export Promotion said that the plan came after 46 countries outside the European Union (EU) had imposed an import ban on poultry from France following an outbreak of bird flu.
For example, Saudi Arabia, which formerly imported approximately 80,000 tons of poultry from France annually, has lowered its imports, giving Thailand an opportunity to export its boiled or cooked chickens to EU member countries and the Middle East, said Chantra.
Thailand’s trading partners in Europe and the Middle East would be invited to inspect production and processing of chicken and shrimp in Thailand in May so that they would have full confidence that the products are free of avian influenza and toxic chemical residue problems, she said.
The Livestock Development Department is expected to announce that Thailand has eliminated its bird flu outbreaks in the country and once the announcement comes out, it should help boost more exports of Thai boiled chickens, she said.
In a bid to further promote boiled chicken exports, operators of chicken and shrimp processing companies are scheduled to visit Japan sometime this month and April, she added. (TNA)


Economy-related agencies urged to be active in promoting Thai exports

Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Somkid Jatusripitak instructed officials of all economy-related state agencies to be active in promoting Thailand’s export policy and supervising people’s costs of living.

Somkid: “We want every official to devote himself or herself to perform their duty to the utmost.”

Speaking with senior officials of all state agencies under his supervision at a meeting to assess the current political situation, he said although the political tension still persists, they must perform duties to the utmost to promote exports and oversee living costs of people.
He said the Department of Export Promotion had been instructed to coordinate with Thailand’s representative offices in every region to promote exports on a continual basis.
“We want every official to devote himself or herself to perform their duty to the utmost. There should be no delays in any projects,” he said.
Dr. Somkid said the Department of Trade Negotiations had been ordered to pursue trade negotiations with members of regional intra-trading groups. However, the talks should be postponed if they involve negotiations at an international level.
He said senior officials of the Commerce Ministry had also been ordered to strictly monitor and supervise prices of products, particularly sugar, to ensure that costs of living have only a minimum impact on people.
The caretaker deputy premier said the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) had made a sound projection for the economic growth this year despite the heating political situation.
“Should all people want to see the Thai economy grow steadily, they must help keep peace and order in the country,’’ he said. (TNA)


2006 trade deficit projected at nearly US$6 billion

Thailand’s exports in 2006 are projected to continue to grow and meet the target of 17.5 percent, while imports are to rise approximately 15 percent, which would bring the economy to a trade deficit of about US$5.7 billion, according to a Ministry of Commerce forecast.
The value of exports in 2006 is projected at US$130.3 billion, up 17.5 percent from 2005, due to continued expansion of global trade and an assertive trade strategy adopted by the government.
Exports of electronic goods and spare parts will be the major driving force in boosting this year’s exports, while exports of agricultural goods will also rise on the back of an expected decline in global agricultural production of between 4-5 percent due to natural calamity.
Thailand is expected to ship more tapioca, rubber and maize this year, the Ministry said.
Higher prices for crude oil on the world market have been forcing down local demand in early 2006, due to economic expansion in China and key industrialized countries. It is anticipated that Thailand’s imports of crude oil this year would drop 10 percent from last year to not more than 765,000 barrels per day.
Imports of steel, machinery and spare parts are also projected to rise this year.
The value of this year’s imports is projected at US$136 billion, an increase of 15.2 percent from last year, which would make Thailand face a trade deficit of approximately US$5.7 billion for the year 2006. (TNA)


Thai banks deny loan cancellation to Temasek

Sources at two Thai commercial banks confirmed that the banks jointly gave a Bt30 billion (US$750 million) loan to Singapore’s Temasek Holdings to buy half of the shares in Shin Corp owned by the family of caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and dismissed rumors that they have canceled the transaction.
An official at Siam Commercial Bank, who did not wish to be identified, said Temasek Holdings representative firm in Thailand has already withdrawn the funds from the bank.
The source said the Singaporean investment firm has purchased half of the shares from Shin Corp by paying Bt40 billion out of its own pockets before it could secure another Bt30 billion from Siam Commercial Bank and Bangkok Bank to complete the purchase.
The share sale has drawn strong criticism from the Thai public and some protesters have taken to streets demanding that Thaksin resign and face an investigation.
According to Kosit Panpiemrat, executive chairman of Bangkok Bank, Temasek Holdings has already taken Bt15 billion from the bank and there was no cancellation of the investment arrangement, as is rumored. (TNA)


Senate panel calls on Singapore to probe Shin Corp dealings

The Senate Foreign Affairs Committee has called on Singapore to investigate the controversial sale of Shin Corp shares to the island republic’s state-owned investment firm Temasek Holdings.
The tax-free stock sell-off in the telecommunications conglomerate by caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s family has fuelled anti-government opposition and sparked a political crisis in Thailand.
Concerns over the 73 billion baht Shin Corp sale have been raised by Senate committee chairman Kraisak Choonhavan.
Senator Kraisak called on Singapore’s parliament president and prime minister to investigate the alleged lack of transparency surrounding the Shin Corp stock sale to Temasek.
A seminar on the Shin Corp issue was organized by the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee at parliament.
Among those attending were representatives of foreign chambers of commerce, including Britain, Israel, India, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Sweden and South Korea.
Also discussed were the growing calls for the caretaker prime minister to resign, as well as the boycott being staged by the three former main opposition parties of the snap general election called by Thaksin for April 2.
Caroline Stockmann of the Thai-British Chamber of Commerce said the foreign community had been considerably concerned over the past weeks’ political developments.
Foreign investors did not want to see violence erupting in Thailand as a result of the political tension surrounding the caretaker prime minister, she said. (TNA)


Commerce Ministry projects furniture export to grow at least 10% this year

The furniture export is projected to grow no less than 10 percent to US$1.5 billion in value with ASEAN being an attractive destination, according to the Commerce Ministry.
Speaking after presiding over the 2006 Thai Furniture and Construction Service Business Exhibition Fair during March 8-12, Deputy Commerce Minister Preecha Laohapongchana said the Export Promotion Department joined up with the furniture industry club to organize the fair.
The department had invited more than 54,000 businesspersons and clients around the world to the fair. It is expected the event would attract plenty of customers from the United States because the country has recently experienced a natural disaster.
Last year, the furniture export enjoyed a 33 percent growth in the United States, 25 percent in Japan, and 10 percent in the European Union.
Aside from promoting export in these destinations for this year, the ministry would attempt to penetrate into the ASEAN market where Thai furniture is still in great demand.
Preecha said he was confident the organization of the fair would help boost awareness of Thai furniture products, particularly production skills, in Asia and the world over. (TNA)


Thailand-China agree to expand bilateral trade

Thailand and China have agreed to expand bilateral trade to reach US$50 billion annually by 2010.
The agreement was clinched by caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak and his Chinese counterpart recently, according to Deputy Permancent Secretary for Commerce Pisanu Rienmahasarn.
To meet the goal, Pisanu said, Thailand would open trade distribution and exhibition centers in major Chinese cities, including Beijing, China’s capital, as well as Shanghai, Guangzhou, Lingyang, Nangjing, Da Lien and Khun Ming.
“The centers will not only promote, but also boost sales of Thai products in China, the world’s largest market in terms of its population of more than one billion,” he told journalists.
“Among the targeted Chinese cities, Khun Ming in southern China is considered the most promising market for Thai products and therefore, the Ministry of Commerce plans to open trade distribution and exhibition there by the end of this year,” he noted.
The Ministry of Commerce is seeking opinions from the Thai private sector on proposed strategic policies for the Thai trade centers.
Pisanu said that so far, Chinese investors have not expressed any concerns over Thailand’s current political turmoil, as they understand that bilateral trade and investment policies run on a long-term basis. (TNA)


BOT decides to raise 14-day repo by 0.25%

The Bank of Thailand (BOT)’s Monetary Policy Committee has decided to raise the policy interest rate by 0.25 percent in a bid to tame inflationary pressure.
Atchana Waiquamdee, the BOT’s assistant governor, said MPC resolved at its meeting last week to increase the 14-day repurchase rate to 4.50 percent per annum, from 4.25 percent, effective immediately.
She said MPC believes that the country’s economic stability is still under inflationary pressure, although the general inflation rate has begun to gradually drop.
She conceded that the core inflation rate remains high and is likely to exceed the target level. The actual interest rate is still lower than it should be by approximately 0.85 percent. Because of this, MPC decided to raise the repo in order to curb the core inflation rate hike, she noted.
She said the Thai economy continued to grow in the fourth quarter of last year, albeit at a slower pace, boosted by an export surge.
MPC is of the opinion that the global economy, particularly that of Japan, the European Union and Asia, has continuously grown at a sound pace. This enables Thailand’s exports to increase to the target level.
Negative factors such as higher fuel prices, interest rate trends, and declined confidence in business and investment, remain of concern.
Under the current circumstance, the BOT projected that local investment might slow since investors need to wait and see a clear direction of investment in mega-projects. She said the implementation of mega-projects would contribute significantly to the country’s economic growth this year.
Although the current political tension might delay the project implementations, it would not affect the BOT’s projection of Thailand’s economic growth. (TNA)



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