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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs           19   August  2011

Thai growth up

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Thailand’s economic growth probably accelerated last quarter as domestic spending countered weaker global expansion, bolstering the case for further interest-rate increases to damp price pressures.

Gross domestic product rose 3.6 percent in the three months through June from a year earlier, up from a 3 percent pace in the first quarter, according to the median of 13 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. The data are due on Aug. 22 at 9:30 a.m. local time.

Thai leader Yingluck Shinawatra plans to raise the minimum wage and pay farmers about 50 percent more for rice, policies that may further cushion growth while stoking inflation. The Bank of Thailand, which has called for “harmony” between fiscal and monetary policy, will raise rates for the seventh straight meeting next week, according to nine of 10 economists in another Bloomberg survey.

“While it’s fairly obvious that dark clouds continue to hover on the external front, the Thai economy looks set to remain relatively robust given the healthy growth of domestic segments,” said Wellian Wiranto, an economist at HSBC Holdings Plc in Singapore. “The central bank remains hawkish and continues to see that upside risks to inflation predominate over downside risks to growth.”

Yingluck became Thailand’s first female prime minister after her Pheu Thai party won the nation’s July 3 general election. Stocks and the currency subsequently climbed as the poll passed without protests in a country that has had nine coups and more than 20 prime ministers since 1946.

The benchmark SET Index of stocks is up 3.4 percent since the vote, while the baht has climbed 3 percent against the dollar, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The equity market and currency have held on to gains even as a global rout, sparked by concern that faltering U.S. and European growth may weaken the world economy, wiped about $6 trillion off shares worldwide this month. The SET Index fell 1.2 percent as of 10:37 a.m. local time today, while the currency was little changed.

Thailand would join neighboring Indonesia in reporting an acceleration in GDP growth, weathering global risks that have contributed to slowdowns in other Asian nations from Singapore to Taiwan.

The government doesn’t “want to look only at inflation” in determining economic policies, Yingluck said this week. She is due to announce them to parliament by Aug. 24. Pheu Thai has pledged to lower corporate taxes, almost double the minimum wage in some parts of the country, build rail lines and hand out free tablet computers to students.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   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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