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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        29  January 2011

Thai government predicts 4.5 percent growth

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Thailand's economy should grow by 4.5 percent this year in the face of external challenges, mainly related to concerns about debt problems in other countries, according to the government'sFiscal Policy Office (FPO).

Naris Chaiyasoot, the director-general, estimated that gross domestic product expanded by 8 percent last year, with growth slowing to 4.5 percent in the fourth quarter after 9.3 percent expansion in the first nine months.

In any case, the performance would be a marked improvement from the 2.3 percent contraction seen in 2009.

The National Economic and Social Development Board will announce official 2010 GDP figures in the third week of February.

Mr. Naris said risk factors facing Thailand this year included economic problems of major trading partners, particularly in Europe where several countries,

notably Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain,face severe sovereign debt pressure.

Another one is the US quantitative easing programme that is affecting global capital flows as the Federal Reserve injects $600 billion into the sluggish economy.

" The US isn't the only country having this problem but also those in EU, as well as Japan. This will cause volatility in movement of the capital flows,'' Mr Naris said.

Meanwhile, China has also lifted its interest rates to slow down its economy and that is likely to hurt its property sector.

The rise in oil prices is another risk, while domestic political tensions can never be ruled out. Improvements in farm prices can be viewed as positive in that farm family incomes have improved, which will spur consumption.

"Last year, farmers' incomes grew by 16.6 percent from 2009, which has driven up the number of new cars sold,'' he said.

Sales of cars and pickup trucks reached a record 803,000 last year, with passenger car numbers rising by 51 percent.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More

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