Political unrest causes Bt50 billion monthly damage to Thai economy

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BANGKOK, March 19 – Thailand’s tourism sector has been hardest hit of all sectors by the political turmoil since November during which a monthly circulating fund of Bt40-50 billion has vanished, according to the Thai Chamber of Commerce.

Issara Wongkusolkit, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Trade of Thailand, said the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) may suffer zero growth or even as much as a 2 per cent deficit if the political impasse prolongs over six months.

If a new government is formed within six months, Thailand’s GDP this year should expand by 2-3 per cent, he said.

He said invoking the emergency decree has diminished the number of foreign tourist arrivals and the original projected arrival of 28.1 million tourists this year was adjusted to 27.5 million, or a 3 per cent growth from last year, instead of what would have been a larger number.

The number of Chinese tourists has dropped 50 per cent while Japanese and Korean arrivals also decreased by 40 per cent and 30 per cent respectively.

The tourism slowdown has affected related businesses including the air transport business which saw a 15 per cent drop while the jewellery sector plunged 30-40 per cent.

Cancellation of seminars and conferences has reduced hotel bookings by 20-30 per cent, particularly in rally zones such as Ratchaprasong, Silom and Rama IV Road, which saw a 70 per cent drop in hotel occupancy.

Mr Issara said tourism should improve after the emergency decree is revoked  The property sector has also suffered slower sales.

Though Moody’s has maintained the level of Thailand’s confidence, delayed appointment of new members to the Board of Investment has put off approval of investment projects worth Bt500-600 billion, mostly involving the automotive and electronics industries, he said.

On the brighter side, Thailand’s export sector should enjoy a 5 per cent growth as projected this year as manufacturing bases for export products are mostly outside Bangkok.

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