Top banker optimistic on Thai economic prospects

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BANGKOK, Apr 9– Thailand’s economy is far from nosediving to the bottom and it should surge back in accord with the strengthened global economy, the chairman of the Thai Bankers’ Association said Tuesday.

Chartsiri Sophonpanich, concurrently president of the Bangkok Bank, said the financial crisis has not plunged to the level of the so-called Tom Yam Kung crisis in 1997 when Thailand encountered the financial collapse of the Thai baht.

The Thai economy in the second quarter will be similar to the first quarter but exports will continue to grow and adjust to the global market situation, he said.

Admitting a slowdown in domestic consumption due to the absence of public spending to stimulate domestic economy, he said tourism has also been less active – a situation which should take some time to return to normal.

He said Thailand’s internal problems are not beyond resolution, and the private sector is focusing on the country’s long-term structure emphasising boosting competitive edge to keep up with other Southeast Asian countries.

The country’s problems are long-term rather than short term, he said.

Isara Vongkusolkit, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the economy in Q2 should be better than Q1 thanks to the revitalised global economy and tourism.

The strength of Thailand’s financial institutions has contributed to the growth of exports, which should reach 4-5 per cent as projected by the Commerce Ministry, he said.

Mr Isara admitted that the political stalemate has impacted overall economic growth which now will possibly expand at less than 3 per cent, consequently affecting the economies of neighbouring countries which rely heavily on border trade with Thailand.

The original projection of border trade volume at Bt1 trillion this year may be adjusted to Bt900 billion, he said, adding that trading volume at border provinces including Sa Kaeo and Chanthaburi reached over Bt20 billion each year.

Permanent checkpoints have been opened at both provinces.

He said border trade will be more active if three temporary border checkpoints are upgraded to permanent ones.

Mr Isara said cancelling the emergency decree has stimulated the tourism sector though it has yet to revive fully, especially tourism in the southern part of the Gulf of Thailand. (MCOT online news)